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Free Access-A-Ride cards could save MTA $90M

Access-A-Ride riders could be issued free MetroCards.
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The MTA has approved free MetroCards for people who use Access-A-Ride, which it said could save $90 million a year by 2015.

The plan is to give the MetroCards, at $2.25 each, to the disabled who now use Access-A-Ride, which costs the Metropolitan Transportation Authority $60 a trip.

The MTA’s hope is that many of those who use Access-A-Ride will turn to buses and subways if they are free.

The transit agency said that of the 175,000 people using Access-A-Ride, only 25 percent must use wheelchairs and that many have disabilities that are such that they can still use mass transit. Users will pay the same as the prevailing fares of subways and buses with their care-providing attendant riding free.

Distribution of the free MetroCards is scheduled to be carried out in phases over the coming six months and, with just 15 percent of recipients choosing to use mass transit, the agency could realize a savings of $90 million by 2015, MTA officials said.

The offer of free MetroCards applies so far only to regular bus and subway service. No decision has been made on express buses.

The paratransit service was made mandatory by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires such transportation where there is bus or subway service.

Access-A-Ride was taken over by the MTA from the city Department of Transportation in 1993.

Those applying for Access-A-Ride service report to their borough’s assessment center for determination on whether they are eligible.

The MTA’s guide to Access-A-Ride provides exhaustive rules, explanations, directions, suggestions, cautions and facts about the service, including outdoor temperatures that should preclude travel — 39 degrees or colder and 90 degrees or hotter — and when you travel with a personal care attendant whether you may bring a guest on a space-availability basis.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

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