Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Limitations of the MATAplus Rider’s Guide

The guide should answer important questions for riders.

By Christina Clift

Christina Clift
Upon reviewing the most recent edition of the Memphis Area Transit Authority’s paratransit Rider’s Guide or as it is often referred to as the MATAplus Rider’s Guide, I found that it does not provide any information or policies covering inclement weather or emergency situations.  It is important for users of MATA’s paratransit system to know what the policy is when there is ice or snow on the ground.  

Can paratransit riders get picked up to go to work, dialysis, shopping, and church?  Living in the south, I know that most people tend to stay home when such weather events happen, but there are some people that still must get to places no matter the weather.  I suppose the guidelines set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act would be the best place to check for such an answer.  However, I could not find anything that specifically covered these types of situations.  According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, paratransit service is supposed to run where and when a fixed route bus is operating, so unless the fixed route is shut down MATAplus must continue to run.  

In March of 2015 Memphis was hit with a blast of snow and ice, and according to MATAplus at that time, they would only transport people to and from dialysis appointments.  But the current MATAplus Rider’s Guide does not have any information on inclement weather or emergency service.  If there had been a clearly defined policy in the Rider’s Guide, MATAplus riders would have known.  

It is up to MATA to create a policy and explain it into riders.  Of course, it should be a policy that keeps both its bus operators and riders safe, but flexible enough to realize that not all people with disabilities want to stay home even in bad weather.  

Finally, the Rider’s Guide does not cover other emergency events that might occur while riding on one of its vehicles.  What if you are on the bus during a tornado warning, what is the driver supposed to do?  What if there’s a fire or accident and riders have to get off the bus?  These questions are not answered either.  

One solution would be to provide periodic training for rider’s to make them aware of how they can get off the bus if the worst were to happen.  So I call upon MATA to work with the disability community to create a usable Rider’s Guide.  One that is simple to understand and not full of transit jargon, one that is readable by all no matter their disability of communication preference, and one that answers questions like mine.

Read the MATAplus Rider's Guide
MATA public meeting