According to Stringer, the new audit found problems underpinning the MTA’s systems to address tens of thousands of complaints made by Access-A-Ride users annually.
By Forum Staff
Tens of thousands of annual user complaints have had little impact on persistent failures – delays, no-shows, safety issues, and more – that plague Access-A-Ride, according to a new audit released on Sunday by City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
The analysis, Stringer said, reveals “alarming bureaucratic breakdowns” surrounding the Metropolitan Transportation Authority service and egregious problems underpinning the MTA’s systems to address those complaints.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, public transportation authorities are required to provide a paratransit system for people with disabilities who are unable to use public bus or subway services. Access-A-Ride primarily delivers service through contracts with a network of private vendors, including 13 dedicated carriers and two broker car service providers.
According to the comptroller’s office, the audit examined more than 21,000 Access-A-Ride complaints taken by the MTA in 2016. Stringer said his staff discovered that the MTA – which contracts with outside vendors for Access-A-Ride service – doesn’t actually investigate the bulk of rider complaints itself. Instead, it sends those complaints to the private contractors who riders claim have provided shoddy service to begin with. The comptroller’s office uncovered massive delays in the contractors’ investigations, and in some cases, no investigations at all – in violation of the agency’s own regulations. The MTA also had no evidence that its own employees ever actually assessed the adequacy of contractors’ responses to complaints referred by the MTA. As a result, the agency doesn’t know if the complaints were ever fixed.
“When a New Yorker calls the MTA to raise safety concerns or relay complaints about poor service, they expect the agency itself will investigate. But what we’re showing today is that in most cases, that simply doesn’t happen,” Stringer noted. “Instead, for the bulk of the complaints received, it’s passing the buck to the very providers who are accused of causing the problems to begin with. Clearly, if you’re not going to bother to understand or investigate the problems plaguing your service, they’re never going to get fixed,” Comptroller Stringer said. “Our seniors, New Yorkers with disabilities, and people from across the five boroughs depend on this service. But we know that it’s failing New Yorkers. Big changes must happen, because we find ourselves back here again astonished at the lack of accountability at the agency. New Yorkers are being let down by their own government, and ultimately, that puts people at risk.”
The comptroller’s auditors took an in depth look at a sample of 145 complaints and found:
• In one case—unresolved 140 days after referral—a rider alleged that the Access-A-Ride driver was an hour late, drove 80 mph in a 40 mph zone, and swerved in and out of traffic. The MTA had no evidence of any investigative results recorded in its complaint-management system and no evidence of any follow-up by the
Paratransit Customer Relations Unit.
• In another case a customer was reportedly injured when the speeding Access A Ride driver hit a bump, causing the vehicle to be lifted in the air and break one of its wheels. The MTA’s complaint-management system showed that the complaint went unanswered for 95 days, before the Paratransit CRU obtained a response. (The MTA’s contracted Access-A-Ride carrier pulled the driver off the road, pending a hearing.) • Thirteen complaints (three safety-related and 10 others) that appeared to warrant investigation were never investigated. The issues included a rider injury, a late pick-up, the wrong pick-up location.