Sunday, June 23, 2013

More METROLift Musings

METROLift (for those who haven't visited this site in many moons, that's Houston's public transit system for the disabled) is changing in several ways. I am willing to accept the changes as good-faith efforts to improve the service, however annoyed I may be with the details on a particular day or trip.

For one thing, METROLift is obviously attempting to serve more riders per vehicle trip. On the whole, in principle, I approve: METROLift is, after all, a bus system adapted to the requirements of handicapped people, but a bus system nonetheless, and the more it follows a one-vehicle multiple-riders model, the more it can obtain the advantages of a bus system. There are some limits to the multiplexing... the service still has to pick up riders at their source locations (homes, workplaces, etc.) and drop them at, or very close to, their actual destinations (not blocks away, as buses do)... but modifying the scheduling algorithm has clearly allowed them to serve more passengers literally simultaneously, making better use of their half-bus-sized vehicles and less use of van-sized cabs which often carry one or two people at a time. On the downside, I seem to be living near the beginnings of a lot of routes, so that the half-bus comes to me first or second, then picks up another passenger, and another, and another, eventually drops off those riders at their destinations one-by-one, and finally drops me off after six or eight other stops... not necessarily close to my home or my destination. Yes, they have delivered me on schedule most of the time. Yes, the whole process drives the drivers stark raving crazy. Such, apparently, is the price of providing people with disabilities a service somewhat resembling public transit. It's certainly better than nothing, or pricey cab service, which is all disabled people had before the Americans with Disabilities Act in the early 1990's.

For another thing, I am using METROLift differently. Now I frequently schedule three stops in the course of what for me is a single trip... home A to grocer B to grocer C and back home, or home A to post office D to grocer B and back home. As long as I buy my frozen foods on the last leg of my run, everything works fine. On many days, though, it does involve a lot of waiting for late vehicles.

And I just have to report a recent conversation with a driver...
Driver:(arrives at TIRR)
Steve:(approaches vehicle)
Steve:Hi! "Bates"?
Driver:No, "Stepney."
Steve:"Stephen Bates"?
Driver:"Bates," yes, but it's "Stepney." Uh, "Stephanie."
Steve:My first name is "Stephen" ... "S-T-E-P-H-E-N".
Driver:That's how it's spelled here on the form,
but that's not how you spell "Steven"!
If only someone had been around 64 years ago to tell my parents...

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