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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Rider Attendees:  Deitra Davis, Dinah Davis, Linda Dagon, Genesis (Ms. Dagon’s daughter), Gloria Hart, Lydia Mele, Ilga Paups   

First Transit (FT) Attendees: Andrew Burke, Anand Gounder, Brian Helm, James Rodriguez   

Greater Hartford Transit District (the “District”) Attendees: DJ Gonzalez, Margaret Pieniazek, Patricia Williams 

The forum began at 5:00 p.m.

November 2015 passenger trips were 37,349, no shows 1,785 (5%), and cancellations 9,724 (26%).

December 2015 passenger trips were 40,425, no shows 1,933 (5%), and cancellations 10,903 (27%).

Customer Service:
In November 2015, 101 comments were received from passengers and 45% were compliments, 11%  driver, dispatch, reservationist, and/or scheduling concerns, 13% late/early arrival, ride length or missed trip concerns, 24% invalid concerns, 4% mechanical and/or related to safety concerns, 1% door-to-door and/or related to wrong drop-off or pick-up concerns, 1% courtesy, 1% no-show concerns and 0% other.

In December 2015, 146 comments were received from passengers; 40% were compliments, 16% driver, dispatch, reservationist and/or scheduling concerns, 16% late/early arrival, ride length or missed trip concerns, 25% invalid concerns, 2% mechanical and/or related to safety concerns, 0% door-to-door and/or related to wrong drop-off or pick-up concerns, 1% courtesy, 0% no-show concerns and 0% other.

Staff Comments:
Following introductions, the group met Andrew Burke, First Transit’s new General Manager. He went on to report that there has been a stepped up effort to hire drivers and to fill open positions.   He also reported that thirty (30) buses have been ordered to replace the 2010 buses. There are currently one hundred forty-seven (147) buses. Thirty (30) new buses were also received in August 2015, with nineteen (19) buses added to the New Britain area paratransit service. The District has a strong vehicle replacement process and buses will be replaced as they meet the end of their useful life.    Mr. Gonzalez went on to say that the District provides approximately two thousand two hundred (2200) trips per day, whereas ten (10) years ago, approximately eight hundred (800) trips per day were provided.  Patricia Williams noted that the winter 2015 ADA Paratransit Newsletter was distributed. Anand Gounder reported that the IVR system is now functioning properly.  Andrew Burke expressed his interest in hearing ADA riders’ compliments and/or concerns, and stressed First Transit’s desire to continue to improve the ADA Paratransit service.  Brian Helm reminded the group that he is responsible for First Transit’s safety and training, and he is available if there are any safety concerns with Paratransit trips. He then provided his telephone number: (860) 724-5340 extension 3014.
As a reminder, to ensure that all participants have sufficient time to speak, please email your concerns at least three (3) days before the forum to Pat Williams at pwilliams@ghtd.org or mail to Greater Hartford Transit District, One Union Place, Hartford, CT 06103, Attn:  Pat Williams.  For forum dates, please contact the Customer Service Department. The dates are also posted on all ADA vehicles and in the quarterly ADA Newsletter.

Participants’ Comments:
Comment: Lydia Mele asked if the state provide funding for potential drivers to obtain licenses?  Will the older buses remain in operation?  Is there only one customer service representative?  She stated that she has been getting a busy signal.

Response:  The state will not assist with licensing costs. The oldest buses will remain in operation until the new buses arrive. There are two (2) customer service representatives. There should not be a busy signal when calling the Customer Service Department.

Comment: Ilga Paups requested clarification on the purpose of the IVR. She expressed concern that the IVR call does not always relay all of her trips. She complimented the Paratransit service in general.  She has been using Paratransit for almost six (6) years, and has only had two (2) issues with drivers during that time. She did express a new concern about a rider who was discussing how much gas money he is saving by using the paratransit service.  She said she saw this man exit the paratransit vehicle and then get into a car and drive away.  She also wanted to know how often ADA riders are recertified.                     

Response: Mr. Gonzalez explained that the IVR system calls ADA riders the evening before and the day of their trip(s). We will investigate the issue of the IVR not capturing all trips. Regarding who uses the service, All ADA applicants are evaluated for the service based on their ADA application, interview, professional verification, etc…  Some disabled individuals are able to drive a vehicle. All ADA riders are recertified every three (3) to five (5) years.

Comment: Lydia Mele  raised the following issues; can a flyer be created for potential drivers needing financial aid for licensing?  Ridership has increased due to East Hartford combining its Dial a Ride with ADA.  Why are the 700 series buses the only buses operated on weekends?  I had a new driver recently who was not trained properly, he did not secure the waist strap, only used the shoulder strap.  This has been reported to Customer Service and Brian Helm.  Has been told by drivers and dispatchers that they must get passengers to their destinations on time, but they do not need to be returned home on time.
Response:  Mr. Gonzalez stated that a flyer for potential drivers needing financial aid for licensing is a good idea. The East Hartford Dial-a-Ride did not combine with ADA Paratransit. Only ADA Paratransit riders are transported by Greater Hartford Transit District. The issue with the waist strap on the new buses will be investigated.

Comment: Linda Dagon has been using the service for 6 years and is very appreciative.  Are drivers permitted to carry laundry bags?  Some drivers have refused to assist with them.

Response:  A laundry bag can be considered the same as a grocery bag, as long as it is not oversized. Customer Service must be contacted if a driver refuses to assist with laundry bags, and personal care attendants (PCAs) can also assist with the bags. This issue will also be addressed at First Transit’s next driver training meeting.     

Comment: Genesis (daughter and PCA of Linda Dagon):
         Some of the ADA drivers do not seem to care for their jobs.   

Response:   Specific driver issues should be reported to First Transit.

Comment:   Gloria Hart stated that her IVR calls are being received as she is leaving the house to board the paratransit vehicle. Previously, the call would come in fifteen (15) minutes before the ride.  Drivers are not leaving the vehicle to come to the door.  Are drivers required to go to the lobby of medical facilities and call the passengers’ name? How long should I wait for a driver to come to the door?          

Response: Anand Gounder indicated that dispatch refers to information provided by drivers for the IVR. Mr. Gonzalez stated that a road supervisor will investigate complaints about lack of door-to-door service. Ms. Williams added that ADA drivers must always disembark their vehicle when picking up and dropping off passengers. The Customer Service Department must be contacted if drivers are failing to provide door-to-door service.

Comment:   Dinah Davis said that some of the buses are cold, including the new buses. However, she is very satisfied with the service.

Comment:  Mr. Gonzalez replied that there is a heater in both the back and front on the vehicles. However, when the door is opened to load a wheelchair, it may diminish the heat. If a bus does not have heat, it should be reported to the Customer Service Department.  

Comment: Deitra Davis:
                     No comment.                      

The forum concluded at 6:15 p.m.
If you have a compliment or complaint about your ADA Paratransit trip, please call the Customer Service Department at (860) 724-5340 extension 9, Monday thru Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., email hartfordcustomerservice@firstgroup.com, or fax (860) 247-0031. You may also write to:

Customer Service Department c/o First Transit
249 Wawarme Avenue, Hartford, CT 06114.

Please do not delay when you wish to report an incident; contact the Customer Service Department as soon as possible. Any questions, commendations, and/or concerns will be addressed in a timely manner by contacting them. Please be certain to have the day of the week, date, and time of all incidents that you would like to report.   

The next ADA Participation Group forum is scheduled for Wednesday March 9, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. in the District’s Conference Room at Union Station, One Union Place, Hartford. You may make a reservation for Paratransit service to and from the meeting by calling (860) 724-5340 and selecting option “1”.  The ADA bus fare will be waived for this meeting.  Please remember that to give everyone a chance to participate, forum attendees need to keep initial questions and/or comments to five (5) minutes. Follow-up comments should also be kept to five (5) minutes.