Metro Wants To Make It Easier For Houston's Disabled To Get Around
by: Gail Delaughter, April 3, 2013 12:04:00 pm
At a meeting this week in southwest Houston, transit riders went over workbooks as they tossed around ideas on things like fare structure.
The topic was MetroLift. That's Houston's transit service for disabled riders who can't use fixed route buses. Those riders include Lisa Batist. She's legally blind and has a service dog.
Batist says if it wasn't for MetroLift she couldn't work and live independently.
"It has its good times. It has its bad times. But we're working together because we need each other. And that's why I'm so happy we're doing this, because it's a step in the right direction for me and for them."
Batist has used MetroLIft for about seven years. She says on-time performance is improving, but she thinks it could be better.
Batist says she's also had problems with Metro employees who aren't sensitive to riders' disabilities, for instance, dispatchers who tell a blind person to go to the window to see if their van has arrived.
"Or to tell a deaf person they're blowing the horn. That's not going to help that person. Or someone in a wheelchair, you know, they're coming down an elevator. They need a few minutes to get to the vehicle."
Metro currently has 128 paratransit vans that crisscross the city. It also contracts with cab companies. About 5,600 riders use the service daily.
Metro Sr. Vice-President Andy Skabowski says those numbers will get even bigger in the years to come .
"There are certain growth factors, I mean, you have the baby boomers that are aging as a population. You have returning veterans of war who would utilize the service if they were disabled while in service."
And in light of the anticipated demand, Skabowski says they need ideas from the public as they shape MetroLift's future.
"We're looking for not just input from people who take the service, but input from people who take all of our services, and input from the whole community. So we're trying to get as broad an audience as we can to really understand what the needs of the entire community are as it relates to this."
More public meetings are set for later this month. Skabowski says after they review riders' comments they'll put together a report to present to the full Metro board. They expect to make that presentation early this summer.
For the a schedule, visit the MetroLift meetings page.