He also said there was a lot of hesitation at first with the new system and people would cancel appointments. “Once they got here, people would realize it’s really not a big deal.” He continued, “There was a lot of misinformation – they’re going to poke and prod, invasion of privacy.
“What we always tell people that come in through here, we’re not trying to determine if you’re disabled or not, it’s how does your disability impact your ability to navigate the system. That’s really what we’re trying to determine.”
Wisner stressed, “We’ve got it down now that the process is really quite efficient.” He continued, “The old way was very inefficient because you were always waited on the information. We were sending out numerous faxes to the doctor … now we have to rely less and less on the doctors.”
The previous mindset, Wisner explains, was they didn’t want to make someone 100 percent eligible if they weren’t 100 percent sure, so they would give conditional eligibility. However, they weren’t enforcing it, so customers often got all the trips they wanted. With the new in-person eligibility assessment in place they’re seeing more customers fully eligible because they have the opportunity to see the person.
A Move to a Smart Card
Valley Metro developed a program called the ADA Platinum Pass. It’s an electronic smart card and the card is only charged for each usage. Valley Metro gets billed for the usage up to the cost of a monthly pass.
Wisner said, “We give them a smart card and when they use it they get free bus transportation on the system anywhere in the region. And light rail.” He continued, “The city is paying for that, only gets billed for that ride.”
It’s a stored-value card instead of the book of coupons that they used to use. People add value to the card by going to the website. If the customer puts $3 on their card they will get $10 worth of free rides. They can get up to $100 for $30 of their own out-of-pocket then they can ride, call a taxi company or a participating provider and when they go on board, they swipe their card, it deducts the fare. They swipe at the end of the trip as well which calculates the whole fare and then their balance goes down by that amount.
“What we’ve found in those cities that have done this, is that it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to put them on a taxi and subsidize the cost of it then it is to put those people on dial-a-ride or other services,” Wisner said. The average cost of a trip on the coupon program is $11 or $12 vs. $28 or $38 he explained.
“The card will just make it a more efficient way to manage it so we’re not having all those coupons.
Valley Metro got a grant to do travel training as another way to get some of the conditional people onto the fixed-route system. Wisner said they actually get most of the travel training clients through the ADA certification process. “They identify individuals that might be good candidates for travel training.”
The paratransit service costs $4 each way so an $8 roundtrip whereas after the travel training, they can ride on the bus or light rail for free.
In the past two years they’ve trained more than 130 individuals and more than 100 of them are considered independent travelers. Wisner stated, “You’re taking someone who was dependent on door-to-door service, which is obviously more expensive and limited to when you get picked up and someone can now ride when they want and they can ride for free.”