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Metro Transit weighs policy change that disabled riders say would make services worse

Seyoon Choi is blind, and finds himself juggling bus and MetroLink trips due to shortcomings with St. Louis’ paratransit service.
/Kathleen Lees
River City Journalism Fund
Seyoon Choi, who is blind, finds himself juggling bus and MetroLink trips due to shortcomings with St. Louis’ paratransit service.

Metro Transit is soliciting feedback on a proposed tightening of its Call-A-Ride reservations policy. The policy would change the booking window for a ride from three to five days in advance to next-day reservations only.

Members of the advocacy group STL Metropolitan Alliance for Reliable Transit, which is convened by Paraquad, say shorter reservation windows would make existing service gaps worse and reduce riders’ autonomy.

“I just recently got an appointment scheduled for three or four weeks out in the future. What if I make that appointment, and then I have to call the day before to set up my ride and I discover I can't get a ride?” Jeanette Mott Oxford, public policy and advocacy manager at Paraquad, told St. Louis on the Air. “That can be just nerve-wracking.”

Taulby Roach, president and CEO of Bi-State Development, said the policy could have a positive effect on customers by decreasing spikes in phone demand on Fridays and reducing trip cancellations.

“What we're trying to do is be as efficient as possible with what our current capabilities are,” Roach said. “We are limited by our employment, [and] we're doing our best to increase our employment.”

In April, the agency received over 150 comments about the proposed change and plans to hold community listening sessions around accessible transit between now and July.

“As a publicly supported agency, we have an obligation to lean in and listen as best we can. And I'm committed to that,” Roach said.

In a report card released earlier this year, advocates gave Metro Transit near failing grades on ADA compliance and customer service.

Seyoon Choi, who uses Metro services daily, wants the transportation agency to more meaningfully engage with people with disabilities and include them in decision-making.

“As someone who is not able to drive due to my blindness, I think being able to walk a few blocks and board that MetroLink and expect reliability is something … that needs to happen in a very time-sensitive, urgent way to know that Metro is listening,” Choi said.

For more on Metro St. Louis’ proposed change to Call-A-Ride and the realities disabled public transit riders face, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or by clicking the play button below.

Metro Transit weighs policy change

Related Event 
What: Metro Transit hiring event
When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. May 11
Where: 5000 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, MO 63110

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Ulaa KuziezMiya NorfleetEmily WoodburyDanny WicentowskiElaine Cha and Alex HeuerRoshae Hemmings is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doer

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Ulaa Kuziez is a junior studying Journalism and Media at Saint Louis University. She enjoys storytelling and has worked with various student publications. In her free time, you can find her at local parks and libraries with her nephews.