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MTA to Expand Use of Mobile App for Disabled Riders Amid Complaints

By Gwynne Hogan | June 23, 2017 11:46am | Updated on June 25, 2017 4:20pm
 Access-a-Ride users turned out in droves at an MTA board meeting Wednesday to complain about service.
Access-a-Ride users turned out in droves at an MTA board meeting Wednesday to complain about service.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — The MTA plans to release a mobile and web app to help disabled riders better use Access-a-Ride services by allowing them book and track trips and e-hail more cabs without having to pay up front.

The upgrade comes amid a growing outcry from disabled riders that they are being underserved.

Steven LoPiano, vice president of paratransit for the MTA, said the agency hears the concerns of riders and is striving to fix them.

"The current system is simply not working for many of our customers," LoPiano said at a MTA board meeting Wednesday. "They need greater flexibility, reliability and transparency."

He detailed a slew of common complaints from Access-a-Ride users about drivers who show up late or not at all, rides taking too long with circular routes through multiple boroughs, having to book too far in advance, and not getting reimbursed for months if they pay for a taxi.

The app, which would allow users to book rides online instead of calling or emailing to schedule a ride, is expected to launch later this year, according to a presentation given to the MTA's board.

Board members criticized LoPiano's bare-bones presentation and demanded he come back with statistics about rider complaints involving drivers and wait times, as well as specific milestones for implementing the changes, which he failed to provide.

"The board needs to know when we can expect these things and whether or not we're meeting those milestones," said board member Susan Metzger. 

Dustin Jones, a disabled advocate from the Center for Independence of the Disabled and a wheelchair user said that "all of these things look great on paper," but was skeptical riders would actually see the benefits. 

He pointed out that 70 percent of Acccess-a-Ride users are elderly and may not be familiar with mobile apps, calling the MTA's presentation "a crock" and noting that the agency used the "Donald Trump method."

"He kept saying this is going to happen, but he never says how," Jones said. "Unfortunately, the customers, we're going keep playing this game of wait and see."