For More Information:
Jeanette Mott Oxford, Paraquad
On Friday, April 7, 2023, leaders of several organizations serving people with disabilities and additional community allies filed a complaint regarding Metro’s Call-A-Ride paratransit program with the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice. According to the complaint, “The current state of Call-A-Ride causes many people with disabilities to be trapped in their homes, to miss medical appointments, and to risk termination by their employers.”
Among problems outlined in the complaint were:
- A high rate of trip denials. In a March 15 letter to several of the organizations signing the complaint, Metro admitted denying more than 18,000 of 47,000-plus trip requests in January.
- Long wait times when calling to schedule trips.
- Rides being offered at times well outside the Federal Transit Administration’s guidelines for an acceptable window of one hour prior or past the requested time. This can mean that a rider arrives at a doctor’s office before the office opens or must find a place to safely wait for a ride after a restaurant has closed.
- Riders are routinely given one-way trips and informed no returns are available on that day.
- Metro has failed “to be transparent, accessible, and openly engaged with the St. Louis community” about the quality of service or the proposed cuts to routes and times of service.
The complaint notes that cuts to Call-A-Ride service that are scheduled for April 10 were not mentioned in the February 1 meeting of the Disability Transportation Resources Network. Instead, they were publicly revealed in a February 28 press release from Metro that also announced a March 7 public meeting at the University of Missouri-St. Louis Student Center. This left little time for Call-A-Ride users to make plans to attend, and several Call-A-Ride users requested but were denied trips to that meeting.
In addition, Call-A-Ride users who attempted to attend the March 24 meeting of the Bi-State Development Corporation’s Board of Directors found they could only watch the meeting on Facebook or YouTube. Some sent concerns in writing by a 7:30 a.m. deadline for public comments posted on the Bi-State website, but the comments were not read in the meeting. Those sending comments received emails after the meeting saying that their comments did not pertain to the agenda for the meeting, so would be shared with staff members and Board members later.
Those signing the complaint asked for the assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), noting that “These problems are harming the quality of life and limiting the possibilities of people living with disabilities in the St. Louis region.” The complaint to the DOJ follows a March 28 complaint filed with the Office of Civil Rights at the Federal Transit Administration by some of the same organizations. Five additional organizations have joined the DOJ complaint, and additional organizations are expected to add their names in coming weeks.
In order to allow Call-A-Ride users and employers who hire people with disabilities to have an opportunity to share their experiences and advocate for their needs, Paraquad is convening weekly meetings at 6 p.m. on Thursdays. Those wishing to be invited to the online organizing sessions may contact Jeanette Mott Oxford, Public Policy & Advocacy Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-289-4303.