That’s how a Metro Mobility customer describes his ability to use the region’s regular route bus and rail system for free as part of the Free Fare Pilot program. The pilot is included in the state’s 2023 transportation bill. It gives certified Metro Mobility customers an incentive to consider another transportation option and helps to reduce demand on the Metro Mobility system.
“Metro Mobility means independence and opportunity for thousands of people in the region who have a disability, as well as their advocates and personal care assistants,” said Charles Carlson, Metropolitan Transportation Services executive director. “But as demand for the service continues to grow, and workforce shortages persist across the transportation industry, both the service and customers can benefit from the relief on the system that the pilot can provide.”
Carlson expects Metro Mobility ridership for 2023 to exceed two million, nearing pre-pandemic levels. He attributes high ridership, in part, to a growing and aging population.
“Metro Mobility is a critical service for many,” Carlson said. “For some riders, using the fixed-route system is a way to gain greater freedom and independence, and this can also help ensure there’s capacity for other riders on Metro Mobility.”
New ways to track your ride
Advancements in technology are progressing to improve communications and on-time performance.
Currently, Metro Mobility customers can set up a “vehicle approaching” notice for automated calls or an email to let them know their ride is 10 minutes away. But other technologies are also in the works.
“We hear loud and clear from our tech-savvy customers at listening sessions and through other engagement that they want the advantages that technology provides,” said Gerri Sutton, contracted services director. “We’re committed to making ongoing improvements that make the service more accessible and available, safe, timely, and cost efficient.”
Sutton says software upgrades that will be tested and made increasingly available include, for example, Driver Mate, which is expected to improve maps and directional information. Metro Mobility expects the upgrade to create efficiencies and, as a result, improve on-time performance.
PASS App will also be a new feature in 2024. It expands the current online booking system by offering an app for customers to download to their smartphone or tablet. The app will provide more options for customers to schedule rides themselves and track the whereabouts of their bus in real time.
“Real-time information on transportation services is something people are accustomed to and we’re working to make those same services available to our Metro Mobility customers,” Sutton said.
As winter comes, please clear sidewalks
As the season turns, Metro Mobility reminds all residents to make sure that sidewalks, steps, driveways, and curb ramps are free of ice and snow.
“Especially for people who have a disability, these are the lifelines to their communities and the ability of Metro Mobility to serve customers,” said Metro Mobility senior manager Christine Kuennen.
Passages that are cleared of snow and ice provide crucial access to jobs, groceries, and prescriptions, worship, and other gathering places. Business and property owners, neighbors, friends, and families provide a critical community service, especially for people with disabilities, by maintaining walkways.
Kuennen warns that people who rely on wheelchairs and other assistive devices sometimes resort to traveling in streets alongside traffic if sidewalks are covered. This can be unsafe and even life-threatening.
Customers are reminded to dress for the weather, and during extreme conditions, brace for delays and consider rescheduling their ride.