Thursday, April 7, 2016

STAC makes changes in April

Specialized Transportation Advisory Committee works to improve service for MATAplus.

By Tim Wheat
When Acting Director Stephen Fields walked in to MCIL on April 6, MATAplus considered any trip request by a rider to have been met if MATA provided some alternative anytime on the day of the request. They even reported that MATAplus had no trip denials in March. When Fields left MCIL, MATAplus had new direction that included noting a trip denial if alternatives provided are more than one hour from the requested time. 

MATA bus interior

Director Fields said that he understood what a “trip denial” was and said that a trip was not a denial if MATA could offer alternatives; yet, Bobbie Fields of MCIL methodically walked him through what MATAplus riders are told by the MATA reservationists. Mr. Fields clearly stated that he had read the MATAplus Rider’s Guide, but when MCIL staff read to him a phrase from the MATAplus Rider’s Guide: “Any trip that is more than one hour from the requested pickup time is considered a trip denial under the ADA;” Mr. Fields stated he would change in practice immediately. The next day at the Memphis Advisory Committee meeting, MATAplus administration announced the change.

The Director also announced that they had made no progress with the inaccessible application that is currently offered by MATA. Steven Fields stated that they had examined the draft that MCIL had provided at the previous meeting and only noted that they wished to include a list of disabilities.

MCIL staff noted that such a list was completely inappropriate and demonstrated the lack of understanding the administration has of paratransit. Eligibility to use the paratransit system must be a “functional determination” and not a diagnosis. No list would be rational, and MCIL staff took time to explain why offering a list would require MATA extending eligibility to people who are not eligible for the system.

MATAplus also announced that they would use social media to communicate with riders. MCIL has no information if people need or are using this new feature.

Mr. Fields said that MATAplus had ordered 9 new vehicles and were examining them to see if they met the MATA contract. The buses will transport 3 people who use wheelchairs and 10 passengers. They are ramp and not lift vehicles that will support one-thousand pounds. Bobbie Fields of MCIL asked if the STAC could inspect the new buses and the Director said “no.”

Pie chart showing only .41% of fixed route riders use wheelchairsChristina Clift of MCIL asked about an inclement weather policy which is absent from the Rider’s Guide, but there seems to be some policy at MATA. She noted that the fixed-route runs, but MATAplus only offers limited service in poor weather. Mr. Fields did not commit to a policy but said he would look into it as well as updating the Rider’s Guide.

Earlier, Bobbie Fields of MCIL had asked about fares and zones to be covered in the Guide. But Steven Fields simply stated that it was covered in the “approval letter” and again did not commit to any change.

The next STAC Meeting is May 5, at 3:PM here at the Memphis Center for Independent Living.