MARTA retains service for disabled, medically fragile riders amid bus, train cutbacksMARTA's paratransit program is serving a ridership that has increased 46% in five years. File/Credit: flickrhivemind.net
By David Pendered
MARTA’ has retained its services for medically fragile and disabled riders, though the number of drivers has been cut, as the agency reduces bus and rail service amid a dwindling ridership . No complaints about a lack of paratransit service have been reported.
Meanwhile, two MARTA employees have self-reported testing positive for the coronavirus. MARTA has not confirmed the cases, saying in a statement:
- “In one case, the employee’s doctor note releasing him for work indicated that the diagnosis was not COVID-19. In the second case, MARTA has not been able to independently confirm the COVID-19 diagnosis.”
The second employee last reported to work on March 10, according to the statement. MARTA has distanced drivers from bus riders by waiving fares and boarding passengers through the rear door. Front-door service remains available for those who required the service of an accessibility ramp that’s located at the front door.
Regarding the MARTA Mobility service, the company with the contract to provide the service has reduced staffing in light of decreasing ridership, according to MARTA’s response to a request for information from SaportaReport:
- “Due to a significant lack of ridership demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become necessary for MARTA’s paratransit provider, MV Transportation, to scale back operations, resulting in the difficult decision to temporarily furlough 140 employees. “
- “MV Transportation has retained employees to continue providing paratransit services to those customers who need it. Mobility customers may request service through their usual channels.”
About 140 drivers were furloughed and advised that the date of their return to work is uncertain.
MARTA’s paratransit buses provide ADA-compliant service to anyone in Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties who’s unable to board or disembark from a regular MARTA bus or rail car. Common destinations are dialysis clinics and other health facilities, and similar critical destinations.
MARTA determines eligibility. Approved riders are transported on a van shared with other riders. The reservation-based service serves sites located within a ¾ mile corridor of existing bus routes.
Furloughed employees cease receiving pay and benefits. Some associates of those furloughed said the employees were not provided the requisite paperwork to seek unemployment benefits. A woman who answered the phone at Amalgamated Transit Union Local 732 forwarded a reporter’s call to a voice mailbox that was full. No other information was provided.
MV Transport distributed a letter that said employees will be provided with, “guidance on finding supplemental income,” such as any federal and state relief that may be available.
The letter advised that furloughed employees can file for unemployment and health care benefits. The letter that provided a website address for additional information observed:
- “Given the nature of the coronavirus health crisis, we hope and expect the furlough will be temporary in nature and look forward to bringing our well-trained employees back soon and resume services seamlessly for the community. …
- “At this time, we do not know the specific time when we will be able to call you back to work. We will be monitoring the situation and working with each Division and our clients to ensure we do what we can to return to full service.”