by Michael Sack
To put it simply: Metro Mobility needs more resources to be a beneficial service to the community.
Recently I was waiting at my day program in Crystal for my Americans with Disability Act (ADA)-compliant bus, expecting it to arrive at 2:26 p.m. We departed an hour later. After making multiple stops, I returned to my south Minneapolis home just before 5 p.m. A week earlier, I was on board Metro Mobility for two hours and 34 minutes.
This situation is totally unwarranted, especially in this day and age when Covid-19 is still running rampant. It is unfair to both drivers and passengers. Metro Mobility drivers would prefer not to pick up so many people at once and passengers would prefer to get home faster. As the demand is quickly returning again, it is imperative that Metro Mobility finds a way to deal with its driver shortage and be more efficient with its routing system.
Metro Mobility has a chart on its website that has the maximum time allowed for passengers to be onboard. For example, my day program is 16 miles away, which means that I should be on the vehicle for no longer than 94 minutes. Other benchmarks include if a person is traveling just one mile, Metro Mobility can take up to 34 minutes to transport that individual
At the other end of the spectrum, if someone wants to travel 30 miles or more on the bus, the maximum time riding the bus is a whopping two hours and 30 minutes. As you may have noticed, I was on board a bus four minutes longer than a person who could be on board the longest. That is way too long and really dangerous in the era of COVID-19.
This has to change for everyone’s benefit and safety. There are several clients — for example, those with autism or complex medical needs – who use Metro Mobility that could profit from shorter rides. Additionally, it is not healthy for passengers to be sitting on a bus for up to two or three hours. They could get stressed, develop pain or get anxious and may have to postpone activities due to lateness.
Likewise, drivers should be treated fairly too. Metro Mobility, possibly with the help of elected officials, needs to find a solution so that drivers do not have jammed-packed routes that could cause them unnecessary stress and to feel rushed. They deserve breaks to stay even-keeled and relaxed throughout the day.
Therefore, I strongly recommend that the Minnesota Legislature delve deeper into Metro Mobility’s procedures and hold hearings to listen to people’s experiences and hear suggestions about what needs to change. More funding to hire drivers and gain more buses is a way to start. In the end though, if the findings show a change is necessary, conversations on how to transform the paratransit system should commence.
Both drivers and passengers should welcome a thorough investigation on all-things Metro Mobility and a discussion about how to move forward with making the transit system better for everyone. After all, we all want the same thing – a reliable, efficient, and world-class transportation system that serves individuals with disabilities and seniors.
Metro Mobility’s heads, drivers, passengers, and advocates must come together to find impactful solutions that could pave a better path forward.
Michael Sack lives in Minneapolis.