Monday, May 13, 2013

Ask the Expert: Beverly Morris, Planning and Eligibility Officer, New York City Transit

1.   Tell us a little about being a planning and eligibility officer for New York City Transit
I am the Planning and Eligibility Officer for the Paratransit Division of NYC Transit.  The Paratransit Division is responsible for operating the agency’s ADA paratransit service called Access-A-Ride (AAR).  My section is responsible for determining eligibility for ADA paratransit service in NYC.  As the service planning officer, my section is also responsible for conducting customer satisfaction market research, service demand forecasting, special operating analysis, statistical reporting, including the submission of the FTA National Transit Database report and developing paratransit service policies and operating procedures.

2.    What modes of transportation does NYC Transit offer?
NYCT operates subway and fixed route bus service, and of course, ADA paratransit service.  All of our fixed route buses are wheelchair accessible and a total of 80 subway stations are ADA accessible and an additional 19 are accessible.

3.    Do people with disabilities often take one mode to another, such as taking paratransit to a bus line?
Yes, we provide feeder service to transport our conditionally eligible customers from AAR service to our regular fixed-route bus service.  At the time the AAR leg of the feeder trip is reserved the customer is given the name/number of the bus route and the location of the bus stop.

4.    Are there any accessibility features of which transit agencies should be aware to help people with disabilities that transfer from one mode to another, such as from paratransit to the fixed route or from a bus line to the subway system?
Priority should be given to designing and procuring vehicles with proper wheelchair securements.  It is also important that vehicle operators call out stops for persons with a visual impairment as well as new riders who may not be familiar with their stop.   We have found that environmental and architectural barriers sometimes prohibit an otherwise capable customer from intermodal travel. Accessible bus stops and shelters encourage passengers with disabilities to use buses more frequently.

5.    How does NYCT typically communicate information about services including what transportation options are available?
Every activity and special event is posted on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (our parent agency) website.  Additionally, we communicate via targeted outreach sessions in the community, distributing brochures and seat drops (information bulletins placed on the customer seats within our vehicles).

6.    What advice can you give to people who are considering trying a new mode, such as a bus line for a portion of their trip?
With the implementation of ADA paratransit service many transit agencies have established travel training and bus usage familiarization programs to help people with disabilities wanting to use regular fixed route service.  Prospective customers should check the transit agency’s website to get information on such programs.  In addition, many communities have hired mobility managers to assist prospective customers on their various transportation options.  Lastly, for any beginners, I recommend that the customer contact the transit agency’s customer information telephone center to get specific information (routes and timetables) about bus service in their community.

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