There are many reasons to like Metro Mobility. It gets us to jobs, medical appointments, places of fun and interest, shopping and to see our friends. Drivers will help with packages and wheelchairs and many other things. Most drivers are willing to drive 10-12 hours a day, in an overloaded system that causes them to often lose their meal breaks.
Last year alone, Metro Mobility drove 2 million people in the Twin Cities. Each vehicle averaged a couple hundred miles a day, covering the entire Twin Cities. That’s a lot of work! This is one reason why I ask you to not give up on a system, that we hear, sometimes has drivers who do not always treat you, the passengers, very well. It depends on the driver.
There are many reasons for this. Sometimes, yes, there is a lack of consideration for people with disabilities. Not everyone has had a chance to really learn about our disabilities. Neither do they always understand us riders. There are reports that there might be sexism involved, and that women, especially in wheelchairs, are treated with less respect. On the other hand, there are many drivers who go out of their way to support and protect us. And work those extra hard, long hours.
Sometimes drivers feel put-upon by passengers. If drivers are persons of color or recent immigrants for whom English is a second language, sometimes they experience prejudice from us. We all have our issues of racism, sexism, and other biases.
Let’s help each other out.
First, please don’t blame the drivers for being late. They are working with double-and-triple time scheduling because the system is overloaded.
Federal law requires Metro Mobility to be as much like regular transit service as it can be. That means they are technically supposed to provide a ride for everyone who calls, no matter how busy they are, no matter the weather, and no matter if they don’t have enough drivers on the road to handle the rides. And if the weather is “bad,” the computers that schedule the rides don’t account for those delays.
Lastly, they are not trained on our specific disabilities (a mistake, I fear). The ADA doesn’t allow the company to tell the drivers specifically what our disabilities are.
What can we do?
First, get to know the drivers. It is harder to talk with drivers when riding in buses: it’s easier in the cars. Nonetheless, if you can communicate, do so. Initiate the conversation, even if you and the driver speak different languages, are of different cultures or gender, or if you are just shy. ASK them about themselves. Ask how their day is going; ask how they got into the driving business. And tell them about you. People who have the ability to listen to each other and relate to each other often having better working relationships. Just be careful not to do too much talking while the driver is actually concentrating on the road, weather, and traffic. Be considerate.
Be timely with the drivers. Be ready; get organized, and don’t do no-shows unless there is absolutely no choice. They drive miles to get to you; let’s be considerate to them and help the system work better for the other passengers as well.
Finally, tell state lawmakers that Metro Mobility is underfunded because many Republicans don’t believe funding is needed. Ridership keeps increasing as Baby Boomers age and uses it. To find out who represents you call 651-296-2146 or 1 -800-657-3550.
The drivers may not know about your disabilities. If they need to know in order to treat you better, help you in and out of the vehicle better, and drive you more safely, tell them if you are physically able to.
Finally, if there are problems with drivers treating you disrespectfully, you do have the right to call Customer Service at 651-602-1111. If drivers do their job really well, you might want to thank them, and call Customer Service and let them know that as well. Again, call 651-602-1111.
Let’s all take our power back, connect with the drivers, and believe in each other. Have a good, safe winter.