Murshid Buwembo was not surprised when the MBTA announced the emergency closure of the Orange Line and a portion of the Green Line last month.
It is impossible to calculate how many disabled riders use the T daily. Still, researchers estimate that one-quarter of the American population is disabled in some form, given this statistic that the number of people impacted by the T’s closure is in the thousands.
Buwembo’s daily commute from Assembly to Downtown Crossing exemplifies the shutdown’s searing disparity. Buwembo initially turned to The RIDE, the T’s paratransit system, when looking for alternatives.
However, Boston’s paratransit system has had problems for decades. Many individuals who utilize The Ride on a regular basis complain that it is unpredictable and unreliable. According to the MBTA, there has been an alarming increase in the number of rides that are missed or delayed.
The paratransit service doesn’t arrive on time thousands of times a year In 2019, 8% of The Ride’s trips were cancelled or arrived late. By 2021, that percentage had increased to 14%, with Ride drivers being absent from roughly 17,000 trips and late for an additional 89,000.
Vera Perez Santiago of Florence, Massachusetts, works as a substitute teacher in Holyoke and rides PVTA paratransit to work due to her visual impairment . In 2018, sometimes she was picked up two hours after work and dropped off an hour before her shift began.
I am fortunate enough to have a wheelchair accessible van. My PCA is able to drive me wherever I need to go. However, wheelchair accessible vans aren’t affordable for many people with disabilities. You might expect to pay $60,000 for a new vehicle. $30,000-$40,000 for a used one.
For disabled people who are unable to drive, paratransit can be a lifeline. People utilize the service to get to work, family gatherings and other events. Massachusetts needs to fix its paratransit system, because people with disabilities depend on it.
Christensen, Dusty. “’Transportation Is Not a Luxury’: Paratransit Riders Air Frustrations” Daily Hampshire Gazette, Newspapers of New England, 25 Oct. 2018, https://www.gazettenet.com/PVTA-paratransit-riders-complain-about-service-21061219.
Curran, Kathy, and Jon Wells. “MBTA’s Paratransit Service ‘the Ride’ Plagued by Late, Missed Trips.” WCVB, WCVB, 18 Feb. 2022, https://www.wcvb.com/article/massachusetts-mbta-paratransit-service-plagued-by-late-and-missed-trips/39124647.
Green, Alex. “What It Means When the T Doesn’t See Disability – the Boston Globe.” The Boston Globe, The Boston Globe, 14 Sept. 2022, https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/09/14/opinion/what-it-means-when-t-doesnt-see-disability/.