Forum allows passengers to speak out on Access-A-Ride

Senior citizens in Bay Ridge who use Access-A-Ride have been telling Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis and other elected officials about their frustrations dealing with the transportation service lately. “My constituents are telling me that there are times when the ride doesn’t show up. I have also heard about drivers who leave the passenger off at a bus stop and tell them to take the bus the rest of the way,” Malliotakis told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday.

The tales of woe don’t stop there. “People have told me that there are times when the driver is unfamiliar with an area and gets lost,” Malliotakis said.

Access-A-Ride, a program run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to provide door-to-door transit service for the frail, elderly and physically disabled, will undergo scrutiny at a public forum Malliotakis is holding with the Bay Ridge Council on Aging and the Bay Ridge and Ovington chapters of the AARP next month.

The forum will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 27, at Holy Angels Catholic Academy, 337 74th St., at 1 p.m.

The goal of the forum is to hear from Bay Ridge residents about problems with Access-A-Ride and to listen to their suggestions on how to improve the troubled service, Malliotakis said. The suggestions will be submitted to the MTA, she said.

“It’s a terrible service,” one Bay Ridge woman told the Eagle. “I can’t tell you how many times my mother has waited for the van and the guy shows up late. My mother winds up missing her doctor’s appointment. One time, my mother was done with the doctor and the driver never came to pick her up. We had to take a car service home,” said the woman, who is a caregiver to her elderly mother. She asked that her name not be printed. “I’m worried that they’ll throw my mother off the list,” she said.

The MTA took over the responsibility of operating Access-A-Ride from the city in 1993. A passenger must be approved by the MTA in order to qualify for the service. Passengers are required to file an application. The service works by appointment. A passenger calls Access-A-Ride and requests a pick up and a drop off. Access-A-Ride vans are equipped with wheelchair lifts.

One complaint Malliotakis said she hears over and over again is about the service being cut off. “It’s a common occurrence. Individuals who had Access-A-Ride suddenly lose it. They get dropped from it and they have to re-apply. We have had to work on behalf of constituents, trying to get the MTA to put them back on,” she said.

The New York Post reported in April that the MTA denied 13 percent of Access-A-Ride applications in 2013, a decision that affected some 7,000 New Yorkers.

“It makes absolutely no sense to drop someone. A person needs Access-A-Ride for a reason. If they’re old and frail their condition is not going to get better. But the MTA makes them go through rings and hoops to get the service restored,” Malliotakis said.

“I look forward to working with AARP, Bay Ridge Council on Aging and local residents to identify and make recommendations to the MTA and help build a better program for those who need this transportation assistance. I think a lot of this can be rectified by policy changes by the MTA,” Malliotakis said.

The MTA issued a statement to the Eagle defending its Access-A-Ride record.

“Access-A-Ride schedules approximately 23,000 trips per weekday, and approximately 5,000 of them are provided through taxi or car service. We ask customers to call AAR if there is a missed connection so that we can immediately arrange for a solution by dispatching a vehicle or authorizing a car service or tax. We then investigate the missed connection so we can determine whether it was an isolated case or a problem with operators. Eligibility is based on a number of factors, and all decisions are based on reason. We continue to look for ways to improve service to our AAR customers,” the statement read.

***UPDATED***

The article was updated on July 30 to include the statement from the MTA.