Pace partners with Uber to launch paratransit expansion in DuPage County – Streetsblog Chicago

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DuPage County residents who are eligible for Pace’s ADA paratransit services can now take $30 free Uber rides per day under the new DuPage Access Program.

On Jan. 19, Pace’s board of directors approved a one-year, $1.1 million contract with Uber that took effect Jan. 31. Modeled after the Pace Taxi Access Program operates in Chicago, it is designed to complement and expand Pace’s ADA Paratransit services in DuPage County.

Since the paratransit program rules state that buses only provide service within three-quarters of a mile of a fixed bus route or Metra line (although it serves all areas of the entire six-county area that meet these criteria), there are several services. gaps, especially in the northwest part of the county. By contrast, DuPage Access can be used anywhere in the county (although it cannot be used outside the county.) Riders who don’t have a smartphone to hail an Uber driver through the app can call a dispatcher via a regular phone.

Just like with the TAP program, DuPage Access users can’t take more than eight trips a day, even if they haven’t used their $30. However, while the paratransit program uses fully accessible minibuses, Uber drivers often use non-accessible cars, which limits the usefulness of the DAP program for people who use wheelchairs and other large appliances. of mobility.

The State of DuPage County Transit

Metra’s BNSF, Union Pacific West, and Milwaukee District West lines pass through Dupage County. Naperville, Illinois’ fourth-largest city, traditionally had several Metra feeder routes and fixed routes, but, with most feeder routes suspended since the spring of 2020, service is much less extensive than before. The pace of service tends to vary a lot depending on the municipality. Suburbs like Downers Grove, Elmhurst, Glen Ellyn and Wheaton have multiple bus routes, many of which connect to multiple Metra lines. Oakbrook Terrace, which has no Metra service, has several Pace bus lines, while suburbs such as upscale Hinsdale and working-class West Chicago have Metra stations but no Pace bus service. A handful of suburbs, such as the Village of Wayne, have no fixed-route transit service.

Picture: Google Maps
Metra’s BNSF (green), Union Pacific West (red), and Milwaukee District West (orange) lines pass through Dupage County, while the Heritage Corridor line (purple) passes just south of it Image: Google Maps

The county has 11 telephone assistance programs for seniors and people with disabilities, but it’s sort of an assortment of rates and restrictions on how far the services travel and what kind of rides you can take. they perform.

Pace buses and Metra trains have wheelchair ramps/lifts and other ADA-compliant features, making them viable options for wheelchair passengers. ADA Paratransit buses were intended to supplement these services by facilitating door-to-door connections and filling in the schedule gaps. But it also means paratransit service has been limited by the proximity of fixed-route service. Also, the fact that buses often pick up multiple passengers at once has become an issue during the pandemic (more on that in a bit.)

At the Jan. 19 board meeting, Superintendent Thomas Marcucci, who represents DuPage County, said he’s seen how current Pace paratransit rules lead to situations where a passenger can book a travel by paratransit, but someone just two blocks away can’t because they live outside the three-quarter mile limit. “I [heard about] an unfortunate situation like Elmhurst’s, and it took time to resolve the issue. All the gentleman wanted to do was go to the Elmhurst Metra station to get downtown for shopping.

Pace’s 2022 budget includes about $6 million to set up pilot TAP-like programs in the suburbs, working with transportation providers instead of taxi companies “to provide an alternative to fixed-route service for commuters. users”. But while the budget described it as a service for all riders, the DuPage pilot is specifically described as a paratransit service.

How the DuPage Access Driver Works

Normally, the TAP program charges passengers $3 per ride, with Pace reimbursing the taxi company for the portion of the fare that exceeds the passenger’s. But during the pandemic, the shared nature of paratransit bus rides became a health risk, so Pace made TAP taxi rides free to encourage more passengers to use the option.

According to the presentation shared at the January 19 meeting, the $3 waiver had the effect of replacing multi-passenger paratransit bus rides with single-passenger taxi rides for social distancing purposes. While TAP trips accounted for 10% of all paratransit trips in 2019, that number increased to 23% in 2020 and 33% in 2021. The presentation also mentioned that TAP trips were less expensive for Pace. While an average trip by TAP costs $25, an average trip by paratransit minibus costs $73.

That said, Pace Acting Director Melissa Metzger told the board that the growth of the TAP program has been hampered by the pandemic’s violence on the taxi industry, and that the industry is not was still not fully recovered. “The taxi numbers have dropped. They are starting to replenish, but they no longer have the same capacity as before the pandemic. »

As with current TAP rides, passengers are not charged for DuPage Access rides. According to the program page, eligibility for the program is determined based on names and addresses registered with the RTA for paratransit service. Paratransit users who already have an Uber account automatically get the $30 per day credit applied to their account. Those without an Uber account will receive the applied credit once they have one. In the event of a problem, Pace asks runners to send their details using a form on the program page.

As noted at the Jan. 19 meeting, Uber already provides similar paratransit services in Washington, DC, Boston, and other cities.

Pace officials said riders who don’t use smartphones will be able to book their trips using a third-party dispatch service. Contact information for the service that was not on the DuPage Access program page as of February 6.

Marcucci said he doesn’t believe carpool companies are hurting ridership on Pace routes (although a City of Chicago study found that carpool rides divert ridership from the CTA), arguing that ‘Uber and Lyft were filling the gaps in the Pace service, and that the pilot would make Uber “part of our comprehensive service package”.

Rhythm board chairman Richard Kwasneski also said he supports the program. “Public-private partnerships like this will be key to rebuilding our service better. We will take what we learn in DuPage and use it to implement similar pilots in other areas.

Metzger said the industry-wide driver shortage hasn’t spared Pace’s paratransit division, and the Uber driver will help address it. “We don’t have enough drivers. We are interested in [having] as many different options as possible to keep the service available to our customers.

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