This past September David Morrison, Wilmington StarNews “disability concerns” columnist, writing under the title “Endless Options,” described a WAVE Transit program known as Dial-A-Ride Transportation; DART for short. He reviewed detailed policies of a project for people “who may have difficulty boarding or getting to a bus stop.” (link)
Typically, DART “service” is laden with limitations and rules that appear to make it more convenient for Transit employees than for the people they are supposed to serve.
First, disabled people must make application and have it approved by WAVE Transit. They may apply online, if they can use a computer. Naturally, operating hours are restricted and even fewer on weekends. A disabled person may be accompanied by a “personal care attendant” (no charge) but passengers must have exact change (cash) and pay up before the start of a trip—$4 each way.
WAVE drivers are limited to assisting wheelchair users on and off the chair ramp. They will secure a “standard” wheelchair, but drivers cannot leave the bus. They won’t assist anyone to a building—and they won’t wait. A disabled passenger gets 5 minutes; then drivers move on. Morrison says that this is necessary “in an effort to schedule DART passengers in the most efficient way possible”—insulting bureaucratic jargon for “We can’t be bothered.”
It seems to elude Mr. Morrison that private transportation would provide better service options. Most people have family or friends who would gladly give them a needed lift, with very personal service. He could promote that, maybe by organizing such a network of volunteer providers. In addition there are myriad subsidized nonprofit charities in this area capable of mobilizing such a service. Another option would be subsidized private carrier service, also giving personalized assistance to those actually in need.
As an advocate for disabled people with no other transportation alternatives, Morrison could lobby political supporters of the $8 million WAVE system to allocate some of these funds to provide private transportation for the disabled. It would result in these people getting good service and it would help distribute taxpayers’ money more productively into the economy.
Morrison should contact city council member and transit activist Laura Padgett to help him get rolling with better transportation options for severely and truly needy disabled people—assuming it is justified with cost-effective analysis.