NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An audit released Sunday by city Comptroller Scott Stringer documented what were termed “bureaucratic breakdowns” in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Access-A-Ride service.
The Comptroller’s office found major problems underpinning the MTA’s systems to address complaints made by riders that use the service for seniors and people with disabilities.
“As a result, complaints have had little impact on persistent failures – delays, no-shows, safety issues, and more – that plague a critical service on which New Yorkers rely,” the Comptroller’s office said in a news release.
In another audit two years ago, the Comptroller’s office found that tens of thousands of New Yorkers had been left stranded by Access-A-Ride. The Comptroller’s office then began investigating what happened when riders called about delays, safety violations and other issues – examining 21,000 complaints made in 2016.
The Comptroller’ s office said it found that the MTA – which uses outside vendors for Access-A-Ride – does not investigate most of the complaints itself, according to a news release. The MTA rather outsources the complaints to the vendors, the release said.
In some instances, the Comptroller’s office found long delays in contractors’ investigations and in some cases, complaints were not investigated at all – in violation of the MTA’s own regulations, the release said.
“When a New Yorker calls the MTA to raise safety concerns or relay complaints about poor service, they expect the agency itself will investigate. But what we’re showing today is that in most cases, that simply doesn’t happen. Instead, for the bulk of the complaints received, it’s passing the buck to the very providers who are accused of causing the problems to begin with. Clearly, if you’re not going to bother to understand or investigate the problems plaguing your service, they’re never going to get fixed,” Stringer said in the news release.
The Comptroller’s office said in one instance, an Access-A-Ride driver was an hour late, drove 80 mph in a 40 mph zone, and swerved in and out of traffic. The MTA had no evidence of investigative results of the complaint, the release said.
In another instance, a customer was reportedly injured when a speeding Access-A-Ride driver hit a bump – causing the vehicle to be lifted into the air and break a wheel, the release said. The MTA’s complaint management system showed that the complaint was not answered for 95 days, the release said.
The audit also showed that 13 complaints – three related to safety and the rest related to other issues – were never investigated at all. They included a rider injury, a late pickup, a wrong pickup location, an unreasonable trip time, a lack of assistance by a driver, a rude driver, and a vehicle air conditioner that did not work properly, the release said. The MTA agreed that 11 of the complaints should have been investigated.
Stringer issued a series of recommendations – including a call for the MTA to review all unresolved complaints in the audit, ensure that they are addressed appropriately, and establish guidelines for probing and tracking complaints.