Getting Around Town with Paratransit
Reliable transportation is an important part of staying active. Understanding your options helps pave the way to continued independence after vision loss. We asked questions and shared our experiences on how to use one of these options, paratransit services.
December 10, 2019
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Travel Talk – Getting Around Town with Paratransit
Presented by Debbie Good and Pam Winters
December 10, 2019
Debbie G: Welcome everyone to Travel Talk. My name is Debbie Good. I've been a learning expert at Hadley for 26 years, and we have Pam Winters with us. Say hi, Pam.
Pam W: Hi everybody.
Debbie G: We're very glad you're here, so welcome everyone and take it away, Pam.
Pam W: Sure. Oh, Debbie. I have in my notes here that you were going to talk about the Wendy David podcast. Do you want to mention that real quick?
Debbie G: Yes. Thank you for reminding me. Everyone, I did this fantastic interview with Wendy David. She wrote the book, Sites Unseen. Sites is spelled S-I-T-E-S Unseen: Traveling the World Without Sight. So she has been all over the world. She wrote a whole book about it available on BARD or Bookshare, and I had the good fortune of interviewing her and I made a podcast out of it. At Hadley, the big thing these days is our discussion groups of which we have this one, Travel Talk, and we have something called Hadley Presents. These are our professionally-produced podcasts of 20 to 30 minutes each. We don't have many of them because we want them to be very high quality and very meaningful, so as I said I had the good fortune of doing two of them. We needed two because Wendy David had so much good information for us.
She talks about everything from going on a plane to taking her guide dog to going on a cruise, to going on tours with groups who were visually impaired or traveling on her own, to getting the most out of your hotel and what you do when you first arrive at a place. So many very practical tips, so please listen to the podcast Hadley Presents, and the name of it is Sites Unseen: Traveling the World Without Sight. Then we had Traveling with a Visual Impairment, Part Two so we have two separate podcasts, so I hope you all will listen to it and tell us what your questions or comments are on that. With that we're ready to talk about paratransit.
Pam W: There we go. Alright.
Debbie G: So Pam, let's just start off very basic. What is paratransit?
Pam W: How many people have used paratransit before? If your answer is yes to that question, can you go ahead and raise your hand? That will just give us an idea about how many people have actually used paratransit before. See, I see the hands going up here. Alright, so we have probably about half the people who are on it looks like who have used ... Oh, still have more hands going up there. That's good for us to know. So we still have some people who haven't used paratransit before so I will go ahead and go over it a little bit. So paratransit, Debbie you asked what paratransit is, and it is part of the Americans with Disabilities Act that requires public transportation systems to provide an alternative service, and it is considered a civil right and I do see that we have somebody with the area code 310 with their hand raised so I'm going to go ahead and call on you.
Debbie G: But first tell us your name and where you're from, because that's always fun to know.
Pam W: Yeah, there you go.
Alexa: Yeah, that is true. My name is Alexa, and I'm from Springfield, Missouri. It's probably too soon for me to ask questions. I can actually wait until you're finished with your-
Pam W: No, you know what? I think it's fine. I think that's what we want. We want it to be more open ended and everybody feeling like they can jump in when they want to, and you have a bunch of other people here who can try to answer your questions and as far as it goes from Debbie and me, if we're not able to answer your question directly today, we'll go ahead and share a couple of times our email addresses with you so that you can go ahead and send your questions to us directly and we can help you do the research that you need to do to be able to get the answer. So go right ahead, Alexa.
Alexa: Okay, my question is actually first of all, I do use paratransit. I use a fixed route and paratransit, and the paratransit service here is not good quality at all and I wanted to find out how they go about training the drivers, because it seems like they don't train the drivers very well. I've lived in several states throughout my life and this is the worst paratransit I've ever experienced in my experience of using paratransit. So it would be interesting to find out how they go about training the drivers. I wish I could be one of the… person to help train drivers.
Pam W: Right, right. Yeah, and I don't have any information about that but again, I'm happy to look that up and if you want to send me an email, my email is Pam@Hadley.edu, and I'd be curious to get some information on that too. Does anybody else who is on the call have any information about that? I'm guessing that it's ... I really don't know.
Alexa: Well, only thing that I can come up with. I just moved to this area actually just a few months ago, and I think it's every four months there's a transportation meeting or transportation committee meeting, and I haven't been to one yet so that's probably where I can find my answer, the next meeting. Go to that and that would be the place to find out. Okay.
Debbie G: Let us know what you find out.
Pam W: Right. For sure.
Alexa: Yeah, okay.
Pam W: Alexa, you mentioned that you use both fixed route and paratransit. Do you use one more than the other usually?
Alexa: Well, it's almost 50/50 because I do use paratransit at night, and sometimes I use it during the day if I'm going to an address for the very first time so I know where, let's say I have to go to that same address. Let's say a doctor's office. I'll use paratransit one or two times and so the third time or so I'll take the bus. I use it just so I can find where it is.
Pam W: Right, right. Okay.
Alexa: So I would say it's about 50/50.
Pam W: Okay. Thank you so much for sharing.
Pam W: Paratransit provides transportation for people with disabilities who are unable to use the regular fixed route services all the time. Just like we've seen here with Alexa that she doesn't use it. She uses both. So I'm guessing that's pretty common among everybody who's participating today. Just a few things for the people who aren't that familiar with paratransit. It must be available in the same service areas and during the same hours of operation as the rest of the transit system. I can't remember who it was but somebody mentioned before we started the recording that in their area the paratransit is available 24/7. It does vary from community to community, but in terms of what's required they are required to offer the same hours of operation. The service is provided as long as the trip starts and ends within three quarters of a mile of a bus route or a rail station in the mainline system. So basically you're thinking about a radius around a bus stop or a train stop of three quarters of a mile all the way around.
Now, I did have somebody who used our SurveyMonkey. When you get that, if you have a question that you want us to discuss, and there was a question on there today from somebody who was saying that they weren't going to be able to participate but they were going to listen to the recording and they were asking about ways around that. They referred to it as a half a mile as opposed to the three quarters of a mile, so that's one thing that I do want that person to know. That it is three quarters of a mile. It doesn't make a ton of difference but it does make some difference. So again, I'm going to just put it out there to people. I know that there are again some systems that do provide extended service area service, but it's only required to do the three quarters of a mile. Is there anybody who can speak to or who's willing to speak to who's used paratransit before, that service area and whether or not it's been efficient for them or there's been challenges? I see we have a hand up. Debbie I'll let you go ahead and take care of those though for me.
Debbie G: Sure. So, the area code 817. We would love to know your name, so could we have your name?
Liz: My name is Liz Keeper.
Debbie G: Where are you from, Liz?
Liz: I am in Fort Worth, Texas.
Pam W: Okay.
Debbie G: Very good.
Liz: We have a horrible paratransit system. I mean, it's okay, but the Dallas/Fort Worth and all of the, I don't know, 30 surrounding little towns that make up Tarrant and Dallas County. I can't get to anything that's inside Fort Worth city limits, so I'm cut off from the downtown or Fort Worth proper. I'm surrounded by other little towns, and I can't take the paratransit to those towns. Even though they're right here, right close to me. Because they only go to Fort Worth, and I'm not in ... You know, I bet lots of places are so much closer. And my doctor's office, when they do referrals, refer me to whoever they're used to using, and it's usually not in Fort Worth. So then I have to call them and ask them if they can find one in Fort Worth or find another ride.
Pam W: Right. So what do you do, Liz, if you don't mind me asking? What do you do in situations like that then? Like for example a doctor's appointment. You have to get there, so typically are you having to rely on family members or friends, or do you use ride share? I'm just curious about what people are doing as alternatives to that problem, because I think it's probably pretty common for people.
Liz: Well in my case fortunately for me, maybe not for him but my husband retired a couple years ago, so he gets the joy of taking me if I can't get a ride. Before that it was really tricky trying to get somewhere. I had to call my doctor's office and say, "No, I can't get there." Because before he retired there wasn't really a lot of Lyft or, what's the other one?
Pam W: Uber.
Liz: Yeah, see I haven't used Uber in the DFW area because we've had a whole lot of drivers doing assaults on passengers in the DFW area, so I won't use Uber. And I'd rather not have to use Lyft because it costs a lot more.
Pam W: Right, right. Okay, well thank you. Yeah, definitely. Is your service, do you have a fee that you have to pay for your paratransit service or is it available for free?
Liz: Yeah, the fee's not real bad. I mean a lot of people complained when it went up because of course most people that have to use a paratransit are on a fixed income, but it's only four dollars one way. I don't think that's terribly bad at all.
Pam W: Right. Well, so for those of you who again aren't that familiar with paratransit, there can be a charge, but it cannot be more than twice the fixed rate that is the regular fixed rate route service. So that's always something to keep in mind. Whenever they go up for the fixed route they're likely going to go up for the paratransit as well. Another thing to mention is that you are able to get rides if you're an eligible rider. You should be requesting your ride a day in advance. That brings us to another point which is that the ride is supposed to come within an hour of the requested time, and one of the things that I've heard from a few people, and there was another question on the SurveyMonkey that came through, is these stories of people who are having to wait two hours plus. I think that's probably an issue for a lot of people. I wanted to open up the discussion with people sharing their experiences. Have they had problems with timeliness for paratransit, and how have you dealt with that?
One suggestion, and when I was looking through doing research and trying to figure out solutions to some of these problems that people are facing is that they're trying to make the scheduling software smarter, and one of the things they're doing is adding saying, "What time is your appointment?" So rather than saying what time you want to be picked up, see if there's a box that you can check or however, depending on whatever software they're using, to say, "My appointment is at 10:00 in the morning." So that they are aware that I have to be there by then. I see that Jordan has a hand up so Debbie, let's go ahead and see what Jordan has to say.
Jordan: I'm in Tennessee. I've dealt with drivers being late before. Because like you said, whenever you're trying to schedule your ride, you have to let them know when your appointment time is and usually they'll pick you up. It's supposed to be an hour before they'll pick you up, but I've had instances where I've been picked up like 15, 30 minutes before my appointment and I'll usually end up being late, and the driver will usually have me call. If it's a doctor's appointment I have to call my doctor's appointment and say, "Hey, I'm going to be this many minutes late because of my driver, but I will be there." Then also the paratransit service. When you call them they have an option on the operating system. It's Where's My Ride number, or the extension, and you can give them your confirmation number after you've scheduled your ride and they can let the driver know that hey, your passenger is wanting to know where you're at, how much longer it's going to be until you pick them up. That's basically the solution that they give you.
Pam W: Okay. One of the things that I was trying to get more information about, and I haven't been successful as of yet and so I'm curious about if anybody out there who's used it knows. So in a situation like that where maybe you've gotten a ride that was an hour late or something like that and you have the Where's My Ride and you notify them that your ride has been late, but is there a process after that that's available to you to basically kind of report it? I was trying to find out whether or not they have a system through which they can keep track of that, so go ahead, Jordan.
Jordan: Yeah. There were some instances where I didn't get picked up for my appointment and I had to call basically the operators back and say, "Hey, they never came to pick me up for my appointment and I had to reschedule it." They said that they would put a note on my file, because they keep a file for you in their system, and basically they make a note on the driver's portion saying, "Hey, this driver didn't pick this passenger up and they had to reschedule their appointment," and I think it's basically they dock the driver, and basically I think they have to go through a retraining process, basically to retrain the drivers to say, "Hey, you're supposed to pick your passengers up, because they had to reschedule their appointments because you never picked them up, or because you were late and they were late to their appointment." I think that's how they do it here is they have to go through a retraining process after they get docked.
Pam W: Well that actually sounds like a very natural consequence for that job. Okay, thank you, Jordan.
Debbie G: Pam, we have someone with area code 317 who has something to say.
Pam W: Sure.
Debbie G: Go ahead.
Kylie: Yes. My name is Kylie and I am from Indiana. I live in Indianapolis, and I am an individual with a disability. I'm visually impaired, and I'm also an advocate of what's called a Partner in Policymaking, so I went through a training program from the government's Council of People with Disabilities, and I have been observing Open Door for some time here. Open Door I think is the paratransit system here, the bus here. I don't know if it's called there in the other cities and states, but I wanted to comment about when there's an issue with Open Door I always typically call. When there is one I always call the number and ask to speak to someone to make a comment or a complaint, and I'm always directed toward I think the complaint person or a supervisor or something like that, or when I make a complaint, someone takes it, and they say they send it along to the supervisor, so that's what's happened. I've had to complain a couple times and people constantly advocate and speak about right infringements with Open Door, and I'm actually working on a report talking about some of the agency incompliance that's going on that affects individual disabilities in children, and one thing I wanted to say about Open Door is that though there are many complaints, there are many drivers that are serving and that are answering the call and they're oftentimes not recognized. The issue with that is that when people work for Open Door or some other individual or some other disability right group, because Open Door is designed to help individuals with disabilities, they oftentimes do it so they can serve and help others who are in need and there are a lot of young women that are working for Open Door.
They drop you off. They drive home alone. They wait for you to come out at night. They help you into the bus. They help you off. Just the other day I forgot to call and cancel a trip, and the driver came up and knocked on the door to come and get me, so it's really a difficult issue because there are some people who are not good customer service representatives and they're not good stewards, and they're bus drivers but they can be very abusive and some of the customer service people who answer the phone can be abusive, but there are many that are not. Oftentimes the problem with Open Door is systemic, so they're missing things that they need. So besides just the bus it'd be good to have a midsize car or a full-size car to come and pick you up. Sometimes you don't want to have to get up as early as you have to. You want to get up at 10:15 and get to where you're going at 10:45 and you don't want to be on a bus. You want to be in a car.
So those are some of the things. When I go to town hall meetings, I make some of those suggestions, or I don't know if I've made that particular one but I'm thinking it. I make other suggestions, but just wanted to encourage everybody to continue finding the positive and the bright light during this very difficult movement that we're in, and actually to continue to honor those people that are serving in Open Door and to continue to support them so that they don't feel discouraged. Some of those people are excellent and what they do, and they really go above and beyond, but also to remember to continue reporting as best you can. Those reports add up and eventually things begin to change. In fact, I know change is already happening, so thanks for the opportunity. Thanks for this discussion. I really appreciate it, and everybody have a happy holiday.
Pam W: Oh, thank you and I think it's so important that you're choosing to look at that positive side and it's not a perfect system by any stretch of the imagination, but recognizing the good intentions of the people who are involved and who are there doing it and coming forward, so that touched me. I appreciate that. Thank you so much.
Kylie: Oh, you're welcome. Thank you for the opportunity.
Pam W: Yep. Very good.
Debbie G: Thank you. And Pam, we have someone with area code 512 who'd like to say something.
Pam W: Awesome. Great.
Debbie G: Go ahead.
Pam W: Hi.
Pam W: What's your name?
Terry: Yes, my name is Terry from Austin, Texas.
Pam W: Awesome. Thank you.
Terry: We have I think decent paratransit system. Not as great, but I don't think not as bad as a couple callers ago, like a DFW area, but I have kept waiting recently for more than an hour or so, and like you said it was like I scheduled as a pickup time instead of appointment time, and I wouldn't make that mistake again but I think my issue is, you don't know who to turn to when that incident or situation happens. Because it's not a driver's fault. Driver's getting all the schedule. It's like some of the schedules it's like add-ons or last-minute cancellations, and the passengers certainly don't know what's going on, and to me it's like a dispatcher's issues or like a customer service representative agent issue, or whoever arranging all these rides. And I try to go to the feedback section and I type in whatever I faced the issue for that particular ride, and hopefully next ride will be the better ride and as long as I schedule my ride as an appointment time I have a perfect experience-
Pam W: Oh, good to know.
Terry: Every time that I schedule the appointment time, but it's still, to me the dispatcher is usually ... That all kind of just pisses me off. They're usually disorganized and a lot of times it's chaotic, and a lot of times just people who are unhappy to be there, and it's not a pleasant experience a lot of times but the passengers and the drivers are kind of put in the middle, so I think it's systemic problems. I don't know any other cities or states or situations like that, but that's my current observation for our paratransit.
Pam W: I do have a question for you Terry and that is, when you've done the feedback, when you've given the feedback and filled out that form or whatever, do you typically get a response back?
Terry: No, I don't.
Pam W: Okay. That would be a good thing, right? I wonder if anybody else has had that experience. If you've had to raise an issue about your paratransit experience through feedback or, yeah, I guess if you call they're going to talk to you because they're on the phone with you, but if you do it through email or whatever, what kind of response there is. Because I would imagine that that would go a long way if you just got a short response even saying, "We apologize. We're working to do this." You know, just some kind of short response would feel better than not hearing anything.
Terry: Right. Yeah.
Pam W: Yeah, yeah. Well thank you so much for sharing that with us, Terry. I really appreciate your involvement.
Debbie G: So, Pam.
Pam W: Yes?
Debbie G: After these negative comments I hate to ask, but if someone does want paratransit, how do they qualify for it and how do you get it?
Pam W: Well that's a great question. Not everyone with a disability necessarily qualifies for paratransit service. It is available for people who have disabilities who are unable to use a fixed route system or are unable to use the fixed route system all the time. So you might be eligible for it for some trips but not others, and you might be eligible for it for all. When you go through the application process there are basically three categories. The first category is category one and that's for people who are unable to use the bus or train even if it's accessible because of their disability. So in this situation they are eligible to use paratransit for all of their trips. This would include somebody with a visual impairment who doesn't have the travel skills necessary to navigate the route to their destination.
The important thing about that comment is that it's not a situation of whether or not you're able to go through travel training and learn it. It's what your current functional situation is. So if somebody who is let's say newly visually impaired and hasn't been able to go through any kind of travel training, at that point it would be difficult for them to know how to get to the train station, the bus stop, or from the bus stop to wherever they're going because they haven't had that training, so they would qualify for category one. Even if they have the ability to learn how to do the traveling. If at some point you go through that travel training and you become a more independent traveler, which is what we want to see with everybody who's able to do that, then they may change to a different category where they're only able to use, for example, say you're able to learn the fixed route to work. So in that situation you would take your regular public transportation to and from work, but if you're going to say a doctor's appointment, that's a new place for you that you've never been before. Then you would arrange your paratransit. You'd be able to arrange your paratransit trip for that.
So that is how that works, then category two is for people who can ride an accessible fixed route but there is no accessible transportation available for the route that they want to travel. That would be an example of say the accessible vehicle that has the wheelchair lift is down for maintenance, and so you are unable to ride that ride. Or the wheelchair lift is not working. The thing that's curious for me about that is, how do you know that ahead of time? If you're somebody who uses say a wheelchair lift and you go to your route like you normally do, and then you find out when you get there that the bus isn't working, so that one I think is kind of a ambiguous category for me. So if there's anybody who's listening who is eligible under category two, I'd be curious to hear from you.
So I'll let Debbie keep watching while I go on to category three, which is that people with a disability who are unable to travel for a variety of different reasons at certain times. So for example, if somebody in a wheelchair where they haven't put in the sidewalks with the curbs that you can go down with your wheelchair. Or for the example of a person with a visual impairment, perhaps you have a condition like glaucoma where you might be very light sensitive, and so on a cloudy day you can travel just fine and you're able to use the fixed route transportation, but on a really sunny day you would have much more difficulty being independent and getting to that bus stop or the train stop, and so in those situations you would qualify for paratransit service. The important thing really here is if you're thinking about applying for paratransit service, it's super important to give as much information on your application as possible, and so one of the suggestions is to actually when you're trying to travel, keep track of those kinds of things. Keep a journal basically, that if you know that you're someone who gets around, or even at night, so that would be another one. If you travel fine during the day but you don't travel at night. To keep a journal of experiences that you've had, because basically in my research that I was doing on the whole application process is that there's no such thing as too much information that you can provide.
So I'm going to open it up again and see if there's anybody who has gone through the application process for paratransit and can share some of their experiences with how easy or hard they found it to be to go through that application process. Is there anybody who's willing to share the kinds of things? Because I can go through and tell you about the kind of documentation that you need and/or that is suggested, but I think it's really, we want to hear from each other and have real experiences.
Debbie G: We have area code 847.
Pam W: Yeah.
Debbie G: Go ahead. Who are you?
Benjamin: My name's Benjamin.
Pam W: Hi, Benjamin.
Debbie G: I know where you live.
Benjamin: Oh yes, you do.
Debbie G: Schaumburg, Illinois. He's a neighbor.
Pam W: Well I knew the 847 area code, so.
Debbie G: Right.
Benjamin: Applying for the paratransit here is pretty easy. They were very, very helpful about helping getting signed up and explaining the process, and then going to the regional transportation authority. They sent a car to pick me up, the person assessed me, and I got my car the same day. Sometimes it can be very easy.
Pam W: So Benjamin, can you share with us? When you say the assessment, because that's another part of it. What did your assessment involve? If you don't mind sharing.
Benjamin: Certainly. They assessed how much visual acuity I had and how far I could walk, and would I be able to go up and down stairs or actually need to ride the lift? Or the wheelchair lift I mean.
Pam W: Okay, and so for that process, just approximately how long did that take? Was it a pretty quick thing?
Benjamin: It was not quick. It was about 45 minutes sitting in the waiting office and about 10 minutes in the actual assessment.
Pam W: Okay, okay. Well thank you so much for sharing. I see that we have another hand, so you can stay on Benjamin if you'd like, but let's see what area code 412, if you could tell us your name.
David: Thank you. My name's David and I'm calling from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Pam W: Welcome, David.
David: I have lived in numerous cities and ridden numerous paratransits and been tested by numerous paratransits over the last 40 years. I also happen to be a past employee of a paratransit agency.
Pam W: Awesome.
David: I also served as the token disabled person on a transit authority board in a small town in Iowa. My understanding is that one of the presenters is a mobility instructor. Is that correct?
Pam W: That is correct. Well, I have my mobility degree. This is Pam, and I am currently in addition to my position at Hadley as a learning expert, I am a teacher of students with visual impairments in the public school system so I'm not actually currently working doing orientation and mobility training, but yes, that is correct.
David: Okay. What I've found in some of these agencies that I've experienced is they hire various people to make the judgment of the visually impaired or blind person's mobility skills during the testing procedure, but the person that the transit agency has hired in my opinion isn't properly skilled to make those judgments and even if the person produces a statement or documentation from a degreed local mobility instructor, that documentation or verbiage is not always accepted by the local transit authority and I personally have a problem with that.
Pam W: Yeah, and I was actually curious about that. About what the credentials were for the people who were doing those evaluations. But even if you have a signed letter from an orientation and mobility specialist, that's the case. That's very interesting to know. Oh, I had another question for you that popped into my head. You said something David about being in a rural area with the paratransit, and that's another one, I think. If you could talk a little bit more about how the paratransit system works in a more rural area, I think people might be interested in hearing about that.
David: Well, currently I'm just outside of Pittsburgh so I'm no longer rural but I was when I was in Iowa and it's up to the discretion of the local transit provider on how often they're going to provide service, and here in the large metropolitan areas which most of us seem to be on the call today pretty much have it available seven days a week. But I found in the rural area I was in in Iowa it was not the case. It was specified certain days of the week.
Pam W: Oh, okay. Just out of curiosity, how long ago was that?
David: Oh, you're going to make me think. I left Iowa probably about 17 years ago.
Pam W: Okay, so it'd be interesting to find out how much that's changed in the last 17 years. Very interesting. Thank you so much. You're right about the whole thing with the credentials for the orientation and mobility specialists. I mean, I think it's probably difficult, because there is actually a shortage in the field right now so finding those people. So that's why I think they would welcome documentation that you could provide. That's just interesting that that wasn't the case, or that hasn't been your experience. Thank you so much for sharing.
Debbie G: So, Pam.
Pam W: Yes?
Debbie G: If someone does qualify for the paratransit, do they have to renew it every so often?
Pam W: There may be situations where they are asked to renew. It's listed as "reasonable intervals," so that's very subjective in terms of that, but typically it's between one and three years and if anything changes with your eligibility where you need to move from say category three to category one, you can then pursue that option earlier. So that is basically how that works. It varies from community to community.
Debbie G: Okay, and can you bring along a family member or an assistant with you on your paratransit trip?
Pam W: That's a great question. The answer to that is yes. If you qualify for a personal assistant, they are able to travel free of charge. Still haven't found my notes but I know that that's the case.
Debbie G: I think Pam, my understanding is that you can always ride with a personal assistant as well as one friend or family member, as long as you tell the reservationist that they're coming. So in other words if you want them to come along as part of your reservation you have to say, "I'm bringing an extra person, or two people."
Pam W: Right, and so the friend and if it's a family member that you're bringing, and not that you have a personal assistant that's with you all the time, they would pay the same fare that you would pay. Then if it's the personal assistant then they are eligible to ride for free.
Debbie G: And you have to all travel together, right? Like if you get off, they have to get off too.
Pam W: Correct. Correct. Yes.
Debbie G: Are they allowed to ride even if that means there's going to be less space for other paratransit riders?
Pam W: I believe that that is the case. Let's see. Yes, they may ride even if there is less room for other riders, because that's a part of what you need for your independence. To be as independent as possible you need that person there. Sometimes that's the way it goes. Being independent means having the support there for you that you can benefit from, so yes. That is the case. Then, there also I know we were talking about the renewing just a minute ago, and in addition to that there can also be situations where you have your paratransit eligibility taken away, and some of those situations would be obviously if someone becomes disrespectful to the driver, aggressive toward the driver, that kind of thing, and then also if you miss your rides. Like you forget to call. It's a common practice that you are late for your ride or you forget to cancel your ride and that kind of thing. Your service or eligibility can be suspended at that point in time.
Debbie G: How about using your paratransit qualifications when you travel to other places? Are you allowed to do that?
Pam W: You are. You are actually able to do that, and when you qualify for paratransit you get a card in the mail and you are able to take that. When you know you're going to travel to another community it's a good idea to go ahead and call them and let them know that you are going to be using the paratransit system in that town. Everything still applies the same way it does. You're still in the same category and that kind of thing. The only thing that changes is however their local system works, so it's always a good idea to find that out ahead of time, and you can only use their system or be considered a visitor for 21 days. If you're there for a period of time longer than that, then you would need to seek eligibility in that town. So say you're going to visit your kids for two months, and three months in Florida, or something like that. Then that longer period of time you would have to fill out an application and everything for that local area as well then. I was curious if anybody has used paratransit in communities other than their own when they've been traveling. Is there anybody who can share experiences with having done that, or have you pretty much just stuck to using it in your own home communities? Alexa.
Alexa: Yeah, I have used paratransit when I've traveled. For instance as I mentioned I live here in Springfield, Missouri and I went to Las Vegas a few months ago, and I knew although I was just going to be there for a week, I needed them to pick me up from the airport. Because I had a couple luggages, so I didn't want to take any other public transportation, so I used paratransit. Now the thing is, what I have done, because I've used it several times when I'm traveling to a new city. I will contact the paratransit of the city that I'm going to, such as Las Vegas, and they will say that they would need my eligibility file or information from my hometown paratransit and they could fax it over so they could see my eligibility, and then I do that. I usually start to do that about a week or two in advance before my trip so that they can get the fax, and maybe they have other questions, et cetera. Of course before all of that I do, like you mentioned, I do check out what their hours are, how much their fare is, et cetera. So yeah, and it is 21 days as a guest, and I've used it in Canada too because I have family in Canada, and I've done that same thing in Canada. So it's just a matter of if you send your fax, have your information faxed to the paratransit of the city which you're visiting, and they can see your eligibility. They can see what your disability is, et cetera. How long you've been using the service of your hometown. So yeah, it worked. I've always had very good experience that way.
Pam W: Good to know. So you're saying then that they're asking typically for more than just like a scan of your card.
Alexa: Correct. They do. Let's say if I were going to Chicago, I would contact them. Let's say I'm going for New Year's Eve. I would contact them now and ask what do they need from me. I'm going to be there for a week, and find out their service hours, et cetera, but what do they need from me? And they would ask me to have my eligibility faxed to their office and they'll give me their fax number. Then after that then I'll do a follow-up just to make sure that they received the fax, and then once they've received the fax then they consider me eligible as a guest for 21 days. The 21 days by the way doesn't have to be ... It's within that year's time, so let's say you go-
Pam W: Oh. Thank you for mentioning that. I meant to say that. Thank you. Yep. Go ahead.
Alexa: Yeah, so it's a year's time, and once they have you in their system and then you can make a reservation based on how they go about scheduling their reservations. Some was anywhere from one to seven days in advance, so if I want them to pick me up from the airport then I make sure I get the time I want. Then I go ahead and arrange that, and then go from there. Some of them will give you a temporary what they call an ID number. So they say so when you're in their city visiting and you call and make that reservation, some of them will just say you just have to give your name and the address of where you're staying at. Some of them will give you a six-digit, five-digit ID number that you can use so that when you call in to make a reservation or cancel, that's how you can go about using their services.
Pam W: Right. I see that Charles has his hand up but Charles, I'm going to ask Alexa one quick question and that is, have you ever had a situation where you've gone multiple times to a ... Like, so you said Vegas. So for example, if you went to Vegas the first time and you did all that. You faxed them the stuff ahead of time, and then if you went to Vegas again, once you're in the system would you have to go through that process again, or is it a one-time thing where you need to get them documentation?
Alexa: Right. It's a one-time thing, so like you said if I went there already once before and I'm going there for the second time, when they look me up they'll say, "Oh yeah, we saw that you were here." Even if it was four months ago, or something like that. Six months ago. Because I don't know how long they keep you in the system. They might keep you in the system for a year. Now, if you used up all your 21 days, let's say you were visiting and it was more than 21 days on that one visit, they might ask you to resend a fax or they may not. I'm not sure how they start over with the 21 days.
Debbie G: Okay, so we have just two minutes. Thank you, Alexa, very much. We're just going to have a brief question from Charles. Go ahead, Charles.
Charles: Okay. Apparently in order to get signed up you have to go down to your local transit service. Is that correct?
Pam W: You can call and ask for an application to be mailed to you and they can send it in alternative formats, and I believe you can also, it probably depends on each transit system, but you can also request that via email and fill out an online application.
Charles: I know that once you get it set up but see I haven't ridden anything like that in 60 years. So once you get set up on something like this when you get to your destination, say you're going to the doctor's office and you're at the doctor's office an hour. Do you call the service up to say, "I'm through. I'm ready to leave," or do they come pick you back up, or what?
Pam W: I believe you would have to have that arranged ahead of time, and I guess then you're anticipating. You have to estimate what your pickup time would be. That's an important question though, so if anybody who has paratransit experience can jump in and answer that question definitively. My understanding is that it would have to be arranged ahead of time as well. I see we have 310, area code 310. Let's-
Debbie G: And that will be our last question for today, so go ahead 310.
Sunshine: Hi. This is Sunshine. I just want to answer Charles. When you make an appointment you have to know the time of the appointment. Let's say a doctor's appointment. But you also have to estimate when you're going to be through. You have to schedule the pickup at the same time.
Pam W: Right.
Sunshine: That's one reason why I don't use this paratransit. I have it just as Plan B if I really, really need it, but if you go to the grocery store, you don't know. You may spend an hour doing grocery shopping, and you know, it just seems a little too inconvenient for what my needs are because I am totally blind and for one thing, all of my doctor's appointments are in medical centers. They're not on the street where the driver can just pull up and take you to the door of it. They're up on the third floor, or they drop you off in a parking lot or whatever. So unless you have somebody along with you to navigate where you're going, it's just really too time consuming for me. But I just wanted to let Charles know you do have to schedule ahead of time and estimate like, am I going to be an hour at the doctor? And then if you miss the ride then it takes you two or three hours for them to reschedule to have somebody else pick you up.
Pam W: Right. Well thank you so much for confirming that, Sunshine. I appreciate it.
Debbie G: Before we wrap up, Jordan had made a comment that once you get approved for your paratransit, they will send you a handbook that has the rules and regulations, so thanks for sharing that, Jordan. That was in the chat box. So Pam, thank you for all of your wonderful information and thanks so much to everyone who participated, whether you were just listening or whether you asked a question or made a comment. We really appreciate that. So, thank you all so much for your participation and Pam, any final words?
Pam W: I do have one more and that is, you will be periodically receiving surveys from Hadley giving you choices of topics that you might like to discuss. If you have topics that you'd like us to discuss, if you could email those to Debbie and me so that we could have your suggestions to put on the survey, that would be great, and then when you do get that survey or an email about the survey, it's important that everybody fill those out because we want to be covering the information that you want to be hearing, so any ideas and suggestions you have would go to me is Pam@Hadley.edu, and Debbie is Good@Hadley.edu. That would be great because we can push those forward and then they can make it onto the survey, and we can see what we can do about getting the topics you want into our Travel Talk box. Other than that I want to wish everybody the happy holidays, happy New Year, and we'll see you back in February.
Debbie G: Okay, thanks everyone. Take care. Happy holidays.