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Access-a-Ride Remains Free to NYC Residents with Disabilities

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Monday, August 31, 2020   

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that fares would come back for Access-a-Ride on Aug. 31 and that riders would pay in cash. An MTA official had not responded to comment before the story, but then an MTA spokesperson contacted us afterwards with this important correction. (12:09 p.m., Sep. 1, 2020)

NEW YORK -- While New York City buses are starting to charge fares again, the public transit service Access-a-Ride, serving thousands of residents with disabilities, will remain free. But there was confusion among Access-a-Ride workers about whether this would be the case.

Lourdes Rosa-Carrasquillo, Advocacy Director for the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York, said she contacted Access-a-Ride directly, after not hearing from the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

"And then we called; one of the Access-a-Ride drivers told an individual that, 'Oh, we're going to start collecting fares also.' And we were like, 'Nobody knew about this!'" Rosa-Carrasquillo said.

Some workers expected the fares to come back. MTA later clarified that Access-a-Ride is still free, even though MTA's other buses started reinstating fares on Aug. 31. But the MTA warns they may need to reduce overall service by 40 percent if they do not receive significant federal aid. Rosa-Carrasquillo is concerned this would lead to overcrowding and hurt those with physical disabilities, many who can't access most subway stations.

She noted that Access-a-Ride hadn't adapted its payment system to limit contact between drivers and riders.

"You have to pay cash," she said. "Not like a MetroCard or you can use a credit card. So if someone comes without the money, they could be denied."

Before the pandemic, riders paid in cash on Access-a-Ride. While MTA bus riders are able to use MetroCards, Access-a-Ride does not have the technology set up to take anything besides cash. This is part of the reason Access-a-Ride remains free, according to the MTA press office.

Disclosure: Center for Independence of the Disabled New York contributes to our fund for reporting on Disabilities. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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