Providing Public Transportation
Alternatives for the Greater
Phoenix Metro Area
Inside the Ride

Community solutions help ease travel for disabled riders

Ron Brooks, Valley Metro's Accessible Transit Service ManagerAs manager of Accessible Transit Services for Valley Metro, I have a professional and personal stake in how people of all ages get around the Valley. Accessible Transit Services is designed to meet the specific needs of seniors and people with disabilities. One of these programs is called Dial-a-Ride, a door-to-door transportation service for seniors and people with disabilities who are unable to use buses and trains because of a physical or cognitive disability.

Last year, Dial-a-Ride service across the Valley provided more than 750,000 trips to more than 8,000 Valley residents and visitors. These included trips to work, school, shopping centers, sporting events, concerts, places of worship, medical facilities, bus and train stations and airports. For many, Dial-a-Ride is the single-most important service we offer, because without it they would be unable to leave their homes. With Dial-a-Ride, they can take part in connecting to life.

Although Valley Metro operates a regional bus and light rail system, Dial-a-Ride services are managed locally. Currently, there are five separate programs:
• Phoenix and the Southwest Valley
• Northwest Valley
• Glendale
• Peoria
• East Valley
This approach functions well for local trips but when a customer needs to travel beyond the boundaries of the local system, the system loses effectiveness. Currently, when a Dial-a-Ride customer needs to cross a local service boundary, they are required to transfer between Dial-a-Ride vehicles. These transfers are time-consuming and costly, and for some of our customers, they can be barriers to freedom, which are just as real as a physical wall, as in Iron Curtain.

Phoenix Dial-a-RideRecognizing the challenges that our fragmented Dial-a-Ride system creates for our customers, we focused our efforts on how to reinvent Dial-a-Ride. How can we make regional travel easier? We began by looking at every Dial-a-Ride policy with our focus on one goal: make Dial-a-Ride more consistent across the region and make it easier to use. After conducting surveys and community meetings we developed a series of 14 recommendations with the intent of making Dial-a-Ride easier to understand and easier to use.

Policies addressing service area and hours of operation, fares, driver assistance, rules about bringing packages, and assisting visitors were all simplified to incorporate consistency.

Not a moment too soon, we ended Dial-a-Ride transfers. Beginning July 1, Dial-a-Ride customers can call one number and travel anywhere in the region without having to wait to transfer from one vehicle to another.

These changes mean new opportunities, job prospects, restaurants and destinations. With these changes, Dial-a-Ride becomes truly regional, allowing people with disabilities and seniors to enjoy the same level of access as buses and trains provide.

Ron and his seeing eye dog, PotterFor me, regional Dial-a-Ride does not just represent a professional success; it’s also personal. Normally, my seeing eye dog, Potter, and I use Valley Metro buses and trains, but once in a while, there’s a place I can’t get to on transit. It could be a result of traveling to a new area or because of a complex street crossing. Thanks to a regional Dial-a-Ride service, you could spot us shopping in Tempe, dining in Scottsdale or maybe catching a spring training game in Peoria. In July, the whole Valley will be my oyster and I intend to discover as much as I can.

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