SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — A nine-month KPIX 5 investigation revealed that dozens of disabled and special needs residents in the Bay Area were dealing with long wait times, unreliable service and shoddy treatment from East Bay Paratransit.
There are finally signs that the reports have shaken things up at the company, even though KPIX 5 is still hearing horror stories from riders.
When we met up with Jeri Lebow last month, she was headed out the door to see her doctor. She’s disabled and depends on East Bay Paratransit to get there. Her pickup window was 8:23 a.m. to 8:53 a.m. But that morning, as usual, her ride was running late.
- BART Official Urges Action to Fix Slow East Bay Paratransit Service
- Disabled Riders’ Families Share Nightmare Stories About East Bay Paratransit Service
- Special-Needs Riders Endure Slow Service On Paratransit Vans
“It gets to be very frustrating. I think, ‘Oh, there is my bus!’ It makes a turn and then it’s like, ‘Not me!'” she said.
By 8:55 a.m., she was reaching for her phone. After a long wait, she finally got through, only to find out that her bus was running 25 minutes late.
It’s a scenario she says she has been through way too many times.
“I have cancelled at St. Rose Hospital about five times because of them,” said Lebow.
During KPIX 5’s nine-month investigation, we discovered dozens of other disabled and special needs Bay Area residents complaining about the same kind of treatment. Jonathan Tomasini has been forced to sit on the bus for two to three hours on his way home from school, causing him to become incontinent.
Zakk Donald has also been stuck on the bus for long hours. GPS tracking devices revealed the delays were caused by buses taking long detours.
KPIX 5spoke to a bus driver for East Bay Paratransit who said the detours are to pick up extra passengers that always get added on to her daily route at the last minute. She explained it happens every day.
The driver also said the dispatch computers are outdated and the call center is understaffed.
“When we call they will say, ‘I am sorry it took so long to get to you. There are only two of us here.’ They run on a skeleton crew,” said the driver, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.
A private for profit corporation called Transdev runs the call center out of an office on Broadway Street in Oakland. Transdev contracts with local bus companies to provide the transportation, but it’s all paid for with public dollars, mostly through AC Transit and BART.
Our series of reports prompted BART director Debora Allen to take action.
“It’s horrible,” said Allen. “Taxpayers are currently spending $43 million a year on East Bay Paratransit. We have to look into this and I intend to call for an audit of this whole process.”
In an email, a BART spokesperson told KPIX 5 the agency is waiting for Transdev to release a promised operations review and analysis report. Meanwhile, there are signs of change. General Manager Jay Jeter is no longer with the company.
And according to a recorded message, East Bay Paratransit is upgrading its dispatch operations.
Jeri Lebow says if that’s true, it’s about time.
“I don’t think we should be treated like that or go through this, just for a ride,” said Lebow.
After waiting almost two hours for a bus that never showed up, a taxi finally arrived to take her to the doctor. By the time she got there, the doctor was too busy to see her.