By Tara Vocino
MALDEN – Cliff Street resident Robert Torosian, who is legally blind and had a mild stroke, has concerns about taking The RIDE. The MBTA responded to his concerns on Tuesday.
“I’ve felt abandoned and stranded a few times within the last year,” Torosian said. “Sometimes, they’re late or go to the incorrect address.”
He then has to cancel his appointment.
Torosian said sometimes The RIDE drivers park across the street, and since he isn’t able to see them, he asked how he would know that it was The RIDE. He also needs plenty of foot room; thus, an Uber or Lyft isn’t feasible.
MBTA spokeswoman Lisa Battison said that RIDE drivers and drivers for the standard Non-Dedicated Service Providers (NDSPs, like Curb and UZURV) that the MBTA contracts with provide ADA door-to-door service and are trained to identify their customers, confirm the customer’s name and confirm their destination with them.
“Drivers meet a customer at their door and offer assistance to the vehicle,” Battison said Tuesday. “If a driver does not offer door-to-door service, we appreciate customers reporting that to us so we can investigate the incident and coach the driver.”
Reportedly, although they have plenty of wheelchair vans, they don’t have enough drivers for the amount of people who are requesting service.
Battison said RIDE staff were able to identify three recent complaints from Torosian: one for a missed trip and two in which the route was running behind, and he was offered an Uber or Lyft, which is an option they are sometimes able to offer when a route is late. Because Uber and Lyft do not offer the same ADA door-to-door service as The RIDE, it is completely optional, and they absolutely still perform the trip if the customer says they don’t want their trip shifted to these ride-share options. She added that they didn’t have a record of him being dropped off at an incorrect location.
“We understand how frustrating it is for customers when they don’t receive the service they deserve,” Battison said. “The MBTA is committed to providing a high level of service to all RIDE customers, and we will continue to investigate all complaints and take appropriate action to address any issues as they arise.”
Torosian now calls to ask for the estimated time of arrival. He said other blind patrons have run into the same issue “almost to the T” – no pun intended.
However, most of the time The RIDE is reliable, according to Torosian. But when it’s not, it’s very uncomfortable. He will use a cab that Mystic Valley Elder Services offers. He added that the Commission for the Blind wasn’t able to help further. A former hairdresser, he also suffers from diabetes and heart issues.
“I can hardly see the screen of my phone,” Torosian said. “How can I travel across a busy street to meet them?”
Battison said if a customer is traveling with a care attendant, all RIDE vehicles are identified with the T/The RIDE logos. Automated calls also contact the customer’s home or cell phone number (the reservationist confirms the number of the customer’s choice) approximately 10 minutes in advance of the driver’s arrival (time sometimes varies depending on traffic and other factors).
Marie Hennessey, who is also legally blind, shared similar experiences in the Aug. 11 edition of The Malden Advocate.