root - Posted on 01 January 2000

MUNI dismantles Taxi subsidy program for disabled folks

by Thornton Kimes/PNN

San Francisco's MUNI bus service, like other urban transit systems, offers Paratransit vehicle service (access to taxi's and vans), to variously disabled riders who can't use regular buses. Transit systems use a discounted scrip system (the scrip is bought to pay for rides) giving certified customers access won through years of court battles and the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

December 5th, 2009, after much tinkering with bus service between the Bayview-Hunter's Point and North Beach neighborhoods and making noises about reducing service or cutting routes elsewhere in the city, MUNI began actually reducing and cutting same—despite considerable noise and protest made by the riding public in response, as well as a series of meetings (called T.E.P., the Transit Effectiveness Project—Thornton went to one meeting) generating even more public comments that were ignored.

December 1st, MUNI stopped selling scrip and began requiring use of a Paratransit debit card (scrip loaded into it much like the food stamps card). The local paratransit website says nothing about this (your tax dollars and the Phantom Webmaster hard at work) yet. Lady Anonymous got an unwelcome anouncement in the mail about the change, coal received in the Christmas stocking on many mantles.

There was much intense discussion of this at the December 9th meeting of the Executive Committee of the Paratransit Coordinating Council (PCC), many people labelling the debit card “Not Ready For Prime Time”. Every changed or new service MUNI comes forth with arrives with a splat: Thornton was underwhelmed by the T-line service that was new some time ago, and when required (by a welfare program) to use it frequently for several months, was surprised it actually worked as advertised.

But the “splat” is painful and stinky and stays in your memory for a long time. Beta testers of the card consistently rated the card's peformance poorly, Lady Anonymous and others have been resisting, protesting the mandating of the card in PCC meetings. Some PCC meeting minutes are, hopefully unwittingly, kinda funny. In comments about the card being made ready to “go live” in November, some taxi companies were described as waiting for wireless equipment to arrive mid-month; others, who must use a system called In Taxi Equipment (ITE) would be asked to use something called “the manual knuckle buster” until they got their ITE stuff.

The “manual knuckle buster” is a lower tech, paper-using credit card machine, irrelevant to the discussion of taxi’s and Paratransit users because what taxi driver would waste time using something that would generate a never-ending paper pile in the front seat? Beaurocrats so love to play with words.

Playing with people who have little recourse to other means of getting from Point A to Point B (and maybe back to A) isn’t so funny. Choosing an “easier” payment method your customers don’t want is at the least bad customer service, but it is also business as usual casual disrespect.


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