Saturday, March 9, 2013

Transporter Malfunction? Try Another Transporter

The use of that large well-known volunteer org for transportation from home to my therapy sessions and back is proving fairly much a disaster. First they sent a vehicle I could not board: city-bus-style stairs were its only entrance. Next they sent a vehicle more suitable, but 40 minutes late. I've been burdening my friends and my mate; that doesn't always work out well, because most people I know are full-time employed.

Determined to try again... by this time I'd bought $20 worth of coupons for the service... I called to set up some rides for the following week. "None available, booked up," said the clerk. "How about the following week?" I inquired. "Booked up," she informed me.

"OK," I said, with as much artificially polite patience as I could muster. "Please tell me when there are rides available." There was a moment's pause; then she said, "Starting about April 10." So I have a $20 coupon book, less the two rides I've already used, that can't be used for a full month.

Time to look elsewhere.

My first "elsewhere" is Houston MetroLift, our city transit service aimed at disabled people. I had already applied for it a few weeks back; it takes a while for them to get you on their list. My interview is this Wednesday... yes, they require an in-person interview to confirm that you are in fact crippled, and decide which (if any) services you are eligible for. In their defense, they will provide you a MetroLift ride to the interview. They'll even tell you which day the interview is on... but not what time of day, until the night before. I'll be calling them Tuesday night after 9:00pm, and I won't be scheduling anything else on Wednesday. Whatthehell, cripples don't have schedules to spoil, right?

I believe you still have to buy and use coupons; I'm not sure. But at least it's one more option, cheaper than a cab, and I've heard of only one instance of their leaving someone stranded. Onward we march...


  1. Oh boy. That's awful. The few times I've ridden the bus I've wondered how someone with a walker or wheelchair would be able to get in... and they can't. I'm aware I'm spoiled with driving our cars, but there will come a day when I can't. Then what....

    1. ellroon, for a healthy person, a city bus or light rail is really no problem. Just be sure to enter with correct change (or a token, or a valid pass). I rode public transit all the time the summer I was in Austria, and it's less hassle than maintaining amd insuring your own auto.

      Houston Metro claims to be 100% friendly to the disabled, and it's been too long since I've ridden to know what that means. For a long time they've had a place in an ordinary bus to secure a wheelchair near the driver; I don't know about walkers. MetroLift supposedly declines people who can ride regular city buses; that, by rights, allows me MetroLift service, because I can't walk the 0.43mi (Metro's own figure) to a bus stop from my home. Only the actual interview will tell.

  2. That's appalling. There are those who would say that the lack of these services is precisely what makes this country superior to other comparable countries. I am not among them. Good luck sorting all this out, Steve.

    1. c, I doubt there are very many Americans chanting "U-S-A!" these days. As for transit...

      The 1% do not need public transit for the most part, and the rest of us use it because it's (relatively) cheap. Cab fare to TIRR Kirby Glen for me claims on the Yellow Cab web site to be about $7, but in my two trips it was $8 and $10.50, the latter because they sent a very large wheelchair-suitable cab... even though I told them I'm on a walker, not in a wheelchair, in my trips to therapy. Informing the dispatcher of your specific needs when you call apparently has no effect on cabs here.

      I am very disappointed in A.R.C. I expected better of them. It's pretty clear that their whole transportation service is a publicity gesture, not a serious charity service.

    2. An aside: this is so much an "awl bidness" town that there are many people opposed to city public transit altogether, and very vocal about it. Waste of taxpayers' money, they say; people should all just drive their individual cars. Damn Republicans anyway!

  3. Ya, the only reason that Houston has public transit at all is so that the servants of the 1% can get to their jobs working for the 1%.

    Be thankful for public transit. My brother can't drive because he's about 95% blind (can see a bit of blurred vision in front of him, enough to navigate his house without falling over, but that's all), but he lives in a small town of a couple thousand people. No such thing as public transit there. He needs groceries or something, he calls family or hopes his (also disabled) wife is having a good day. His boss lets him telecommute and occasionally sends someone to pick him up when he's needed at a meeting or something at HQ (which is in Intracoastal City, i.e., *another* small town), or he wouldn't have a job because he couldn't get there. Nice to have a boss who actually values an employee enough to do such things, most bosses would just find a way to can his ass as too much trouble to deal with. Alas.

    1. 'Tux, I would almost agree with your first sentence, except that 25 years ago I rode Metro buses to and from work at Baylor College of Medicine and later UT School of Public Health in the Texas Medical Center, and on each bus there were a few white guys wearing suits I would not have been able to afford, clearly docs or mid-level administrators at the hospitals and other institutions. At least a few well-off people in Houston do ride Metro.

      As for MetroRail, despite repeated obstacles and well-funded campaigns to stop further construction, 30 years after the first time I voted for rail, Houston is in progress building its second rail line. The first line, from the northern edge of downtown, south to Reliant Stadium (which you may have seen on TV) was built a few years ago and enjoys truly massive ridership; the line being built now is a similar line running east-west, and the expectation is that ridership levels will be similarly high.

      And the required referendums to build these lines have all been passed by adequate majorities. The residents of Houston are ready for this. After about half my lifetime, they're finally going to get it. (Nice technology, BTW. French. Yep... the US allowed itself to be surpassed.)

    2. Yah, our BART here in the Bay Area is using Canadian (Bombardier) technology, while VTA light rail bought 100 Japanese light rail cars (they started with Canadian cars then in an astounding act of wastefulness, decided to buy 100 low-floor cars to replace the barely-broken-in Canadian cars because the Japanese cars were easier to outfit for handicapped service). There aren't any American manufacturers of light rail cars, especially custom ones like BART uses, not since Bombardier bought the decrepit remains of Pullman off the bankruptcy auction scrap heap.

    3. 'tux, I don't know the particulars of those "low-floor" cars, but I do know that stepping up or down is a challenge for many disabled people, and may be an absolute barrier to someone in a wheelchair who has not had training in ascending/descending steps. Somebody should have thought of that before they bought the first set of cars. I am fortunate in that regard: legs, even artificial legs, are better for dealing with steps than wheels are.

      I've spent time on BART and liked it just fine. Houston's fledgling rail system (all one-and-a-half lines worth to date) is very similar from a passenger's view. I'm told it's cripple-friendly but I haven't ridden it since my leg replacement. As usual, my problem will be access to a rail stop.

    4. The core problem with VTA light rail was that they forgot to design wheelchair ramps into the stations the way that Caltrain heavy rail has done. They had wheelchair lifts at stations but they were difficult to deploy and the train driver had to get out and unlock the controls first, because they were rather dangerous to unfurl (if a small child etc. were underneath where the ramp would unfurl). Rather than go ahead and put in fixed wheelchair ramps at the stations and modify one doorway of the cars to mate with said wheelchair ramp (what both Caltrain and Amtrak do here), they instead decided to spend an astounding sum of money to buy low-floor cars and scrapped the wheelchair lifts. Oh well, it's done, and the new cars are nice and you can roll right in from the station, but man, what a waste of money *that* was. But at least with 100 cars, we have enough light rail cars for any foreseeable expansion of the system...

    5. 'tux, good old Blogger threw your above comment to moderation, and I didn't notice for many days. Sorry!



• Click here to view existing comments.
• Or enter your new rhyme or reason
in the new comment box here.
• Or click the first Reply link below an existing
comment or reply and type in the
new reply box provided.
• Scrolling manually up and down the page
is also OK.

Static Pages (About, Quotes, etc.)

No Police Like H•lmes