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Default Some Access-A-Ride customers on Staten Island are told to take the bus

Some Access-A-Ride customers on Staten Island are told to take the bus
Published: Friday, November 12, 2010, 12:08 AM Updated: Friday, November 12, 2010, 7:39 AM
Maura Yates

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Some Access-A-Ride passengers are being told they are no longer eligible for rides on the paratransit vans, and must instead take the bus to get to doctors' offices, keep other appointments and shop.

New York City Transit, which administers the service, aims to cut costs by steering relatively mobile seniors and people with disabilities to mass transit.

The agency hemorrhages money with each AAR trip -- the average cost per ride is a whopping $48.56, of which the customer pays $2.25, the standard fare.

So Transit developed a software program that enforces the "conditional eligibility" of the 40 percent of its customers who are able to walk between one and five blocks to get to a bus stop.

Now, when a rider arranges for a trip, the system will determine whether the person is able to walk to and from a bus stop at the start and end point of the trip. Currently, this affects the outbound trip only; AAR service remains available for the trip home.

But for Kenneth Hicks, a disabled rider from Mariners Harbor who has been coping with chronic back problems since 1995, taking the S48 bus two blocks from his house isn't an acceptable option. He has canceled several medical appointments so far this month after being told that an AAR van will no longer offer him door-to-door service.

The stop-and-go movements of the bus, and the swaying induced by sitting in a side-facing seat will exacerbate his condition, he said, not to mention there is no guarantee he will be offered a seat.

So far this month, 84 Island customers requesting a total of 153 trips within the borough were given directions for bus service rather than provided an AAR ride. One customer was offered AAR service to a stop for a bus that would take him to Brooklyn.

Only customers with conditional eligibility could be told to take buses, and any customers who believe their level of mobility was incorrectly assessed or their condition has worsened can ask for a reassessment, according to NYC Transit.

"Access-A-Ride needs to get less expensive," said MTA board member Allen Cappelli. "It's a program that has gotten way out of control because of historical mismanagement and some people taking advantage of the system." But Cappelli stressed that any cost-savings initiatives should be taken only when it is certain that customers with a legitimate need for AAR service are able to get it: "I will be pushing to ensure that there is a balanced approach to this, and that nobody who actually needs the service is denied the service."

The authority is looking at contracting with more car services and using a voucher system to provide the service less expensively. A test will be done in Manhattan using taxis and black livery cars, Cappelli said. "Staten Island can be an ideal place for that."

For more information about Access-A-Ride service and how the conditional eligibility enforcement could affect you, consult
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