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Metro Call-A-Ride will reduce routes in parts of St. Louis County starting April 10

A MetroLink bus drives by the Grand Station on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Metro Call-A-Ride will reduce services for people with disabilities in the outskirts of St. Louis County beginning April 10. Metro officials say an increased demand for trips and the lack of bus operators caused them to scale back routes.

Metro Transit is scaling back its Call-A-Ride transportation services for people with disabilities in the outer parts of St. Louis County beginning April 10.

Metro officials say the service change is partly due to the increased demand for trips and the lack of bus operators and dispatchers. They say cutting routes will help improve paratransit services by reducing trip denials and phone reservation wait times.

“This is not something that we feel good about doing, but if we're going to provide the service, we want to make sure that the people that need it the most, that they get it,” said Charles Stewart Jr., Metro's chief operating officer.

About 250 people near north St. Louis County and the Chesterfield and Fenton areas will be affected by the scaled-back routes. Metro Transit is federally obligated to service areas that are within three-quarters of a mile of an existing MetroBus or MetroLink service area, and those routes that will be eliminated are outside Metro Transit’s federal boundaries, Stewart said.

The transportation company has been struggling to fill open operator, customer service and dispatch positions since 2020. Metro Call-A-Ride is operating at about 60% of its workforce and needs 79 more drivers. In January, Metro denied about 18,000 out of 47,000 Call-A-Ride service requests. The paratransit service did not have enough drivers to cover the trips.

“Since COVID started, we've started to have these situations occur much more frequent,” Stewart said.

Advocates for disabled people are concerned about the changes, saying they will limit the ability of people with disabilities to access doctor's appointments and attend wellness programs, community activities and education opportunities throughout the region.

It is hard for people with disabilities to access and afford reliable transportation, said Aimee Wehmeier, president of Paraquad, an organization that helps disabled people live independently.

“Transportation is one of the biggest barriers to independence for people with disabilities,” Wehmeir said. “So, we need more options for transportation, not less.”

Metro Call-A-Ride is directing riders who are affected by the service changes to contact Via Metro STL, MoRides, Ridefinders or Mo Healthnet for other transportation options.

Metro Transit will hold a public meeting on the reduced routes and transportation alternatives at 6:30 p.m. today at the University of Missouri-St. Louis Millennium Student Center.

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.