Monday, April 28, 2008

Guest Editorial: In support of Delaware Paratransit Services

Paratransit refers to an alternative mode of public transportation (bus, van) that does not follow fixed routes or schedules. Delaware provides paratransit services for people with disabilities (DART Paratransit). My friend, Dave Mills, uses DART regularly, and is bothered by the recent bad press the service is getting in the Wilmington News Journal. He asked that I share this with the world. Although I don't use DART paratransit yet, I agreed to publish his letter.

Here is his open letter in support of DART paratransit services.

From Dave Mills:

I have read articles in the newspaper about DART transit services and I have some thoughts that conflict with the one-sided opinion demonstrated by the News Journal. The articles imply that all paratransit riders feel that the service is totally unreliable. I have been using the service for about 10 years, about 2 or 3 times a day, and I have never been stranded.

The less than 5% of clients who label DART as “para-stranded” need to give more facts about the service instead of making vague statements about long waits. My records (5/1/05 – 5/1/06) show that DART got me to my destination within 1/2 hour 217 times, within 1 hour 210 times, and between 1 hour and 2 hours 94 times. Only 2 times the bus was very late due to breakdowns. The travel times are usually commensurate with the distance, other pickups and traffic.

The News Journal articles may have indirectly contributed to an unfortunate situation. I know someone who was thinking of using paratransit because she has some difficulties driving. Because of the negative publicity, she tried to drive anyway and was in a terrible accident.

Concerning pickup locations, all clients should clearly state which building exit they will be at when the reservation is made. It is strange that people who complain when DART is late think it is OK to make the driver and other clients look for them. I think we must show a little common sense.

I know the people who have been mentioned in the paper, and they are usually late or make the driver ask for the fare. DART’s performance could improve if everyone would respect the guidelines and the other clients. Recently, one of my trips doubled in time because the next pickup after me wasn’t home. The driver dutifully waited past the scheduled pickup time. Since DART does not enforce the No Show policy, the on-board riders have to deal with these delays.

I understand that a client had sued DART and received a settlement for $20,000. This is a disservice to everyone, since it appears that client gave the wrong information when the reservation was made. DART may have paid the settlement money to avoid more unfavorable and undeserved negative commentary from the News Journal.

Signed, David Mills


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