Op-ed | Improving Paratransit service with new leadership

Acting MTA New York City Transit President Craig Cipriano
Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

As New York continues its recovery, we all recognize public transit serves as the backbone of our region’s resurgence.  And while our subway continues to get the attention it rightfully deserves and our bus network undergoes a transformational redesign, the MTA is equally focused on Paratransit service to reimagine a system that enables all New Yorkers to take part in the revival.

 To lead this effort, I am thrilled to welcome Chris Pangilinan aboard as the new Vice President for Paratransit, reporting directly to me in the Office of the President. This puts Paratransit on equal footing with Subways and Buses as one of Transit’s three core services.

As a Paratransit customer and longtime transportation professional with experience at NYCT, TransitCenter, USDOT, and most recently Uber, Chris is uniquely qualified to lead the MTA into a new era where Paratransit customers can count on us to provide more flexible, affordable, and reliable service– because all riders should have the ability to be spontaneous and take advantage of all that New York City has to offer. Chris sees our services through a unique lens, and I am confident our Paratransit customers will benefit from his personal and professional experiences.

However, like our subway and bus system, MTA Access-A-Ride needs to overcome some of its own significant issues. Priority one is hiring new drivers and to that end, we’re providing space on MTA advertising signs and digital screens for Paratransit carriers while also reaching out to recently retired bus operators who may be seeking job opportunities. The carriers themselves are running television ads and offering hiring bonuses as high as $2,000 for new drivers. We also declared an immediate operating need at the end of last year to fast track procurement of supplemental paratransit services.

Additionally, we want to ramp up broker services to provide increased capacity. The MTA has amended commercial agreements by adding incentives to perform Access-A-Ride trips, increasing our investment in the Paratransit program.

This aggressive approach is already yielding results. I’m happy to report that Paratransit performance in December saw clear improvements, reversing a negative trend. For the past three months, the 30-minute pick up window for on-time performance for our primary carrier service improved and remains better than our goal at 95 percent. And for broker service, the same metric went up by 8 percent, returning to the 90 percent performance level for the first time since August 2021. No-shows by primary carriers also reduced significantly and are now outperforming the goal.  

These improvements have been noticed by our customers who are returning to Paratransit in record numbers. Just last Wednesday more riders took Access-A-Ride trips than on any day since March 13, 2020, more than two years earlier before the pandemic first arrived in NYC.

We are not done, and I know that Chris will build on this strong foundation and help take MTA Paratransit to new heights of customer satisfaction – as we deliver on the commitment to create a system that enables all New Yorkers partake in our city’s revival.

Craig Cipriano is interim MTA New York City Transit President.