SCOTTSDALE, AZ — A Valley woman says changes to the City of Scottsdale's transit service is creating more problems than solutions.
Michelle Murik works part-time at a call center off Interstate 17 and Thunderbird Road. She only works four hours a day, three days a week, but is happy to be making a paycheck, even though she suffers from cerebral palsy. "We want to be active members of society," she said.
Murik's used public transportation to get around for years, getting her to doctors appointments, grocery stores, work or the mall. She used to ride Valley Metro or call Dial-A-Ride, now known as paratransit, to give her a faster, more direct route. Both are ADA accessible options.
However, the City of Scottsdale changed its transit service schedule last year. Officials telling us "The Federal Transportation Administration requires that agencies provide ADA paratransit within ¾ of a mile of public transit."
Sam Murik, Michelle's father, says their home is just over two miles from the nearest bus stop."We were told she is not inside the boundaries, and she would have no transportation," he said.
According to Murik, the city was willing to make an exception for his daughter last year but revoked it in June. He has called the city's transportation department dozens of times, even speaking with Mayor Jim Lane among other officials. “ They made it very clear to me we are not making exceptions, we have several people in your situation and we are not beginning to make changes," Murik added.
Kelly Corsette, Communications and Public Affairs Director for the City of Scottsdale says 22 residents have also been affected by the change, prompting Scottsdale to bring in an alternative called RideChoice.
"RideChoice is a taxi and rideshare subsidy program for persons certified as disabled by the FTA," according to Corsette. " RideChoice serves the whole city whereas ADA paratransit is limited to the minimum required service area."
It's meant to be a solution for those outside the boundary of Scottsdale's new transit schedule, but the Muriks say it's only caused one problem after another.
Michelle calls RideChoice unreliable - drivers not showing up when scheduled for pick-up, and sometimes leaving her abandoned, telling Michelle they don't have enough drivers to service her ride.
“It’s been nothing but chaos and craziness," she says. Michelle says she was left abandoned at a Barnes and Noble Sunday when her scheduled RideChoice didn't show up.
On top of that, RideChoice is more expensive.
"ADA paratransit is $4/trip and there is no limit on the distance of travel as long as both the origin and destination are in the service area. RideChoice is $3 for up to 8 miles. After that, the participant (rider) has to pay $2 per additional mile," said Corsette. "For those living outside the ADA paratransit service area, the most cost-effective way to travel is to take RideChoice into the ADA paratransit service area and connect to ADA paratransit. That would cost a total of $7 (presuming someone is within 8 miles)."
That's exactly what Michelle finds herself doing every morning to go to and from work to avoid paying a hefty bill. If she were to take RideChoice from her parents' Scottsdale home to North Phoenix, the bill would be $73 more.
"She had a doctors appointment at St. Joe’s downtown, and she did not want to transfer and risk not being on time so she used RideChoice for the entire ride both coming and going," said Sam Murik. "If she had used Dial-a-Ride it would’ve been eight dollars, it was $80 round-trip, so it is not a cost-effective program for the disabled I don’t care if you work full-time.”
Michelle says she's been late to work on several occasions due to issues with RideChoice, and worries she could lose her job as a result.
“They should try to find some avenue to make this work just so the disabled can have a life and a job," she said. "We’re not able to have a active and productive life if the transportation is unavailable or if it’s unreliable.”