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Liu: Disabled riders under-served by MTA

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Councilmen John Liu (D-Flushing) and Eric Gioia (D-Long Island City) offered recommendations they said should make traveling easier for the handicapped and disabled. "New York City's public transportation system serves as a social and occupational lifeline for millions of people," the report said. "Yet for the more than one million New Yorkers with disabilities, this city's network of public transportation services can be woefully inadequate." "For some New Yorkers with disabilities, getting to Europe could be more convenient than getting to a downtown doctor's appointment," said Gioia. "In a city where the daily commute can be irritating for many, it is an onerous burden for the over one million New Yorkers with disabilities," Gioia said. "The city is obligated by federal law to provide reasonable options for people with disabilities but what we've heard is that all too often those options fail. Our system costs us too much and serves them too little." The Council's Investigations Committee, headed by Gioia, said there were many "common sense, low cost, easily accomplished steps we can take now to improve the system and ease the burden on New Yorkers with disabilities." The Committee recommended: MTA and Access-A-Ride should conduct regular customer service training for employees with a focus on treating passengers with disabilities with respect and sensitivity. Bus drivers should avoid bypassing bus stops with waiting passengers if the bus is not at capacity. People in wheelchairs have told of being inexplicably bypassed by buses. AAR drivers and dispatchers should provide passengers with the most accurate and up-to-date information about delayed vehicles. Some passengers have told of horrific experiences waiting outside in inclement weather for rides that arrived late or not at all. AAR vans should display vehicles and driver identification in a conspicuous place inside the vehicles so riders can report complaints with more anonymity. The MTA should enforce daily inspection requirements of buses to ensure that wheelchair lifts and other accessibility components are working before buses leave depots. "The MTA has, commendably, committed to improvements in transit service," said Liu, chairman of the City Council Transportation Committee. "However, subways and even buses remain beyond the reach of most people with disabilities. The MTA can and must change that, starting with these basic and easily-to-implement recommendations. This way we can help more New Yorkers live independently, get around and lead productive and fulfilling lives."Reach reporter Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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