For my column this week, I spoke to several transit riders with disabilities who say that Pace, Metra and the CTA have gotten a lot better at accomodating disabled riders, but there are still big problems that need to be fixed.
The worst one: city paratransit users are being hit with higher fares to use the door-to-door pickup service, but these same riders are most affected by the inefficient routing system that paratransit carriers under contract with first the CTA and now Pace use to dispatch trips.
Pace is currently holding a series of public meetings to get riders' feedback on what improvements need to made, and Pace officials have made it clear that they're going to change the way paratransit carriers operate in the City of Chicago.
But there's another side to the coin: at the last Pace board meeting, board members noted that running the paratransit system more efficiently may actually hurt the cash-strapped agency in the long run, because it will cost Pace more money to serve more riders. As you can imagine, providing roughly 6,000 door-to-door paratransit rides a day (in the city alone) is a labor-intensive operation.
If you've taken paratransit, or are disabled but use mainline trains and buses, I'd love to hear about your experiences. How does Chicago rank among other places you've been to, as far as transit accessibility is concerned?
Also, I wasn't able to include this in the story but Shelley Sandow, an independent auditor hired by the CTA, did a very detailed analysis of accessibility on the CTA system. You can read her reports here.