By Carla Zanoni
MANHATTAN — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to slash door-to-door paratranist service for elderly and disabled riders as part of an ongoing effort to close its widening budget gap.
The MTA plans to change the nature of its Access-a-Ride service for some riders by picking up and dropping off passengers at bus stops instead of their homes, and by limiting service for some riders to only times when it is extremely cold or hot outside, according to sources and a report by NY1.
"This year we expect to reduce paratransit costs by $40 million," MTA chairman and CEO Jay Walder said during a Wednesday Crain's event, of the $470 million annual service. "Next year I expect that we will reduce paratransit costs by $80 million."
Inwood resident Allison Miller, 39, said she often uses the service to get to the doctor when her multiple sclerosis symptoms make navigating the subway system too difficult. She explained that the change will be more than just an inconvenience for many riders.
"It's not just me, there are several elderly people who need Access-a-Ride more than I do," she said. "Now the MTA is going to just drop them off at a bus stop and say 'Good luck getting home'?"
The MTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The announced cuts dovetailed with a lawsuit filed against the MTA Wednesday for failing to make the Dyckman Street 1 train station accessible to people with disabilities. The closest accessible 1 train station for people for disabilities is at 42nd Street.
James Weisman, who filed the suit on behalf of disability-rights advocacy group the United Spinal Association, said further service cuts go against federal mandates to make accessible transportation provisions for the disabled community.
A previous United Spinal Association lawsuit was responsible for pushing the MTA in the 1980s to implement accessible buses, 100 accessible subway stations throughout New York City by 2020, and creation of the city's paratransit system.
"Those that need lift-equipped buses because of lack of subway access are forced to call Access-a-Ride," Weisman wrote in an e-mail this summer.
"Access a Ride, because of the Americans with Disabilities Act's mandate, must meet demand. It cannot just cut its budget and deny service to those who cannot use mass transit, the service must be available."