Director Steven Fields says “Call at 9:AM and you may get a ride that afternoon or evening.”
By Tim Wheat
At the May 5, Specialized Transportation Advisory Committee meeting Interim Director Steven Fields said that MATAplus had begun to take same-day reservations and provide rides THAT DAY. STAC members were surprised and skeptical of the explanation by the MATAplus head administrator. Many felt that it was simply that the Director did not know the basics of the paratransit service and all the STAC members noted that they had not ever heard of the same-day offer and had no personal experience with a same-day reservation or ride.
The MATAplus report also showed that 2,367 people apparently got this service in April, 2,369 people were reportedly given same-day service in March and only 40 in February of 2016. Compared to total service, MATAplus is claiming in these reports that about one-in-five paratransit trips are actually same-day.
At the STAC meeting in March, Mr. Fields described the “Same Day Service” that MATAplus reports as the people who were put on a waiting list. He explained at the meeting two months ago that the “Same Day Service” were people who had called up to three in advance for a ride, but were informed of the availability of a ride on the day of the service.
However, the interim head of MATAplus was adamant that they were providing same-day service. Mr. Fields said that an eligible MATAplus user could call early in the day and would have an 80% chance of being able to ride later that day. He said that MATAplus offered this to be more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The ADA does not require same-day service, but none of the STAC members corrected the head of MATAplus. Last month at the STAC meeting, Steven Fields had failed to define a “trip denial,” a central idea in compliance with the ADA and an item that is obviously misreported each month by MATA.
Both the MATAplus Rider’s Guide and the MATA website explain MATAplus as a reservation for next-day service. An MCIL employee even called to ask the MATAplus reservationist for a same-day trip and they were told that MATAplus does not make same-day reservations.
Although the announcement dominated the STAC meeting, in reality the misunderstandings materially harm any progress for the system. MATA does not report how many people asked for same-day service and were denied. They do not appropriately report or understand trip denials. They have policy and procedure that they are not informing Memphis customers about and most critically, the administration has little or no understanding of the responsibilities of a paratransit system.
MCIL asked that MATAplus undertake creating a new Rider’s Guide which Mr. Fields agreed they needed; however, he would not set any kind of timeline. The current riders do not have a guide and MATAplus has programs that obviously MATA staff and administration do not understand. Not making a commitment to inform customers is ignoring MATA’s responsibilities.
MATAplus did announce a “chat line” that may be used for quick communication with MATAplus. Mr. Fields warned everyone that it was chat and not text. He cautioned people not to message MATAplus and not wait for a response. Try it out: 901-443-2225
MATAplus also announced that they would begin to enforce a no-show policy in June. The no-show policy puts the responsibility for cancelling rides on MATAplus rider at least one-hour before the scheduled ride. Throughout this month Steven Fields said that MATAplus would inform riders if they had a no-show and would remind them of their responsibility to cancel in advance.
The STAC committee will hear individual’s appeals when a rider feels they were given a “no-show” unfairly. If you feel you should not have been given a no-show, please make a complaint at MATA by calling. Following is information from the MATA website on how to make a complaint: PHONE: (901) 522-9175
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