Washington, D.C. – An independent review of MetroAccess, the door to door service for transit users unable to take the bus or Metrorail system due to a disability, found that while progress has been made in improving the service, a number of challenges remain.
The independent review of the service provided by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) was prepared for the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB).
The review said on-time performance has improved and there are fewer missed trips and no-shows. Improved staffing levels for reservationists, schedulers and dispatchers, has resulted in better telephone performance and reduced hold times. A more efficient customer complaint tracking and response process has been instituted as has greater clarification from WMATA to customers on MetroAccess policies.
However, the review also indicated several areas where progress still needs to be made. Staff turnover of reservationists, dispatchers and drivers remains high (121%, 89%, and 111% respectively) and extended hold times remain a problem. Driver turnover is four times the national average. Due to limited staffing levels, the user eligibility process is taking several months to complete; most paratransit systems complete this process within 21 days. Very early pick-ups and drop-offs also remain an issue, as do a small percentage of very long trips.
The independent review, which was conducted by TranSystems between May and September 2008, was guided by the TPB Access for All (AFA) Advisory Committee and the TPB Human Services Transportation Coordination Task Force.
Tim Lovain, Alexandria City Councilmember and Chair of the TPB Human Services Transportation Coordination Task Force noted that the “structure of the contract (with the MetroAccess contractor, MV Transportation) is unusual.”
MV Transportation acts as a broker while also operating over 60% of the service, therefore MV Transportation is responsible for monitoring its own service and has the entire responsibility for reservations, scheduling, and dispatching functions. In other large metropolitan areas, these responsibilities are typically dispersed.
“This issue is very personal to people,” Lovain said. The ability, or inability, to be mobile, can have a major impact on a person’s quality of life, he added. During the public comment period, several area residents and representatives of disabled citizens’ advocacy groups spoke of the importance of MetroAccess and the need for continued progress. Catherine Hudgins, Fairfax County Supervisor and Chair of the AFA Committee added, “This service is utilized by some of the most vulnerable members of the region’s population.”
The AFA Committee and the Human Services Transportation Coordination Task Force, realizing that adopting all of the recommendations presented in the independent review would come at a substantial cost to WMATA, prioritized its top five recommendations.
Those recommendations state that:
- WMATA should work with the contractor to reduce employee turnover, to reduce long ride-times, and to address excessively early and late drop-offs and pick-ups (through scheduling software adjustments and the development of revised on-time standards).
- Furthermore, WMATA should fund the long-term capital plan for MetroAccess to ensure that adequate vehicles and equipment will be available in future years.
- WMATA should also consider altering the future contract structure to lessen concentration of responsibilities and operating functions in any one company and should simplify the recertification process for individuals found to be unconditionally ADA paratransit eligible.
The AFA Committee has had long standing concerns with the quality of service offered by MetroAccess. In 2006, MetroAccess riders experienced poor service after the transition to a new contractor, MV Transportation. In February 2006, the TPB and the AFA Committee issued a study on MetroAccess and other area paratransit services titled “Improving Demand Responsive Services for People with Disabilities in The Washington Region.” The study included 15 recommendations for improving paratransit service in the area. One of those recommendations was to conduct an independent review of the MetroAccess service.
To view the Independent Review of MetroAccess, click here.