MATA paratransit makes riders wait just to leave a voicemail
There is a disturbing practice at MATAplus that keeps people from getting assistance on the phone. For the paratransit system in Memphis, the phone is the primary way to make reservations and to cancel a ride. Often, riders will call only to be on hold and following a long wait, the call is put to voicemail. The system will tell you how many callers are in line ahead of you, but when you wait to reach the end, your call is not answered and you are dumped to voicemail.
“I have called MATAplus only to be put on hold in the queue for at least 10 minutes,” said Bobbie Fields of the Memphis Center for Independent Living, “then sent to voicemail when I was number one. I would like to see every rider who has experienced this to file a complaint against MATAplus.”
Paratransit riders who call often must speak to an operator and cannot just “leave a voicemail.” The experience of riders also shows that leaving a message or using the “chat” system do not ensure that MATA will get the message and respond. There is no way to negotiate additional times even if the message if left on the MATA system.
“On Sunday, January 1, I called MATA at 7:30 AM to cancel my rides for the day,” explained Janice Craven, a MATAplus rider. “The first ride was scheduled for 10:AM. I left a message and requested a call back to let me know the message was received. I called again at 8:45, stating the same information and saying this was my second call and second message. At 10:AM, a MATAplus Operator was in front of my house calling to ask if I still needed my ride for that day. I told them I had left 2 messages to cancel all my rides for the day.”
But the annoying issue with MATA is that the problem is not accurately reported. MATA administration says they answer calls quickly and the wait time is minimal. Of course, many patrons must wait, hang-up and call back. Realistically the wait time for the MATA customer is about twice as long, yet the phone system only reports the answer time and the wait time for each call.
In November of 2016, MATA reported that they had 554 abandon MATAplus calls, 397 calls over three minutes and that 92 percent of the calls were answered. MATA administration did not report the total number of calls. MATA reported that the average wait time of a call to MATAplus was one minute and 18 seconds. Riders do not feel that the MATA Monthly Operation STAC Report is accurate about the phone system or the on-time performance. MATA has not produced the report since November 2016 when MCIL had questioned the validity of the numbers.
“All I know is my frustration is stifling like the heat on a summer day in Memphis,” said Allison Donald the new chairperson for the Specialized Transportation Advisory Committee at MATA. “I am sitting here watching the clock. I am unsure whether the frustration will subside when I find that little piece of shade that arrives when my bus finally shows up. Will this be temporary relief like that glass of grandma’s sweet tea; or will I be left wanting more when I am still on the bus an hour and a half after my pick up? I have tried everything but much like the Memphis heat MATAplus is insufferable. I have come to realize that those individuals who want to pacify this issue of the poor service that is provided by MATAplus could not endure the heat that riders have to.”