The Grand Jury
has concluded that Redi-Wheels has made improvements in its service in
both quality of service and number of people served. However, past reductions
in SamTrans fixed route service, SamTrans budget problems, an increase
in San Mateo, County’s aging population and an improved service
level have recently placed the current Redi-Wheels service level at risk.
SamTrans should develop and implement a plan in cooperation with the Redi-Wheels
contractor, M.V. Transportation, and Aging and Adult Services to solve
the recent service problems and to insure that the service is economically
Redi-Wheels, San Mateo County Transit District’s paratransit service,
adequately serve those who cannot use regular bus service, and is the
present level of service sustainable?
In 1977, the San
Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans) launched a transit service for
mobility-impaired residents. The program, Redi-Wheels, offers curb-to-curb
service for people with disabilities who cannot independently ride fixed
route SamTrans bus service. The Redi-Wheels program meets the requirements
of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) that mandates that
all public transit operators provide paratransit service to persons with
disabilities comparable to the level of fixed route service offered.
defines “No-shows” as the failure of the client to be at the
pickup point at the designated time.
Redi-Wheels program is funded under the SamTrans budget. SamTrans 2002-2003
fiscal year budget has projected a $6.5 million revenue shortfall, and very
limited growth in Redi-Wheels funding. Given the current economic climate,
resources are unlikely to increase above current estimates.
Redi-Wheels ridership has increased by over 120% since 1992. From November
2001 to November 2002 the average daily ridership grew 17.1% from 813 to
998 rides per day. Over 8,000 County residents make use of the service and
this number is expected to grow significantly as the population of the County
The current Redi-Wheels operating cost per passenger is $27.19 per one-way
The Redi-Wheels program exceeds ADA requirements in the following areas:
In order to meet the usage demands, the number of Redi-Wheels drivers increased
from 60 in 2000 to 113 in 2002. Drivers report often working 10-hour days
without regularly scheduled breaks, restroom stops, and lunches. Restroom
stops are often difficult for the drivers to schedule due to their work
- ADA requires that paratransit service maintain hours of service equal
to those of fixed route transit. Some SamTrans fixed route services
end as early as 4:30 p.m. Redi-Wheels offers service seven days per
week between the hours of 5:30 a.m. and midnight.
- The ADA requires service only within three-quarters of a mile of a
fixed route service. Paratransit services are offered to all qualified
county residents, regardless of their proximity to fixed transit routes.
- The Redi-Wheels fares are below the maximum level allowed by the ADA.
The standard Redi-Wheels fare is $2.00 per one-way ride. Low-income
riders pay $1.00 per one-way ride.
Despite the increase in drivers, the ability for Redi-Wheels to maintain
service levels has declined:
The Redi-Wheels system is particularly problematic for clients relying on
the system for transportation to and from medical appointments. Redi-Wheels
stipulates that clients must schedule their rides at least twenty-four hours
in advance, must select a time within a one-hour window of their preferred
time for pick-up, and must be prepared to take their ride within a window
of 20 minutes before or after the scheduled ride time. As a result, clients
are often late or early for medical appointments. This can be problematic
for both the patient and healthcare provider.
- On-time pick-ups have fallen below the 90% standard since they peaked
- The dispatch system is inadequate and drivers are not able to immediately
notify clients when they are delayed
- The client “no-show” rate has increased 52.4% between
November 2001 and November 2002
In July 2002, Health Rides, a medical rides service, sponsored by Health
Plan of San Mateo was discontinued, leaving no alternative ride service
for clients going to medical appointments. Currently, Redi-Wheels educates
clients about incorporating the allowable time windows for pick-up and delivery
into their schedule, but clients often don’t inform their medical
providers of their transportation situation.
Over the past several years, SamTrans has operated the Redi-Wheels program
very well. Redi-Wheels is responsive to client needs and service quality
issues brought to its attention, and maintains a zero denial rate of clients’
ride requests. However, SamTrans management and Redi-Wheels program administrators
anticipate that changes in the program will be necessary due to an excess
in demand over available resources.
SamTrans is exploring a number of options for change. To control the growth
in client demand, Redi-Wheels is planning to improve their certification
process including recertifying current riders to determine if individuals
are eligible for or have been incorrectly certified to ride Redi-Wheels.
During this process the people who do not qualify for Redi-Wheels will be
given travel training to aid them in using fixed route transit services.
Travel training is offered on a limited basis to teach people with disabilities
to ride SamTrans buses and Caltrain, when possible. Travel training is provided
by SamTrans internal staff and through community-based organizations: Peninsula
Center for the Blind, RCH, and Community Gatepath.
Redi-Wheels is also experimenting with contracting with a taxi service for
clients who are physically able to use it. A pilot program in the northern
area of the County is currently being evaluated. Taxi trips less than eight
miles are less expensive per trip than the Redi-Wheels per passenger costs.
Clients complain that taxi drivers are unfamiliar with their area, late
for pick-ups, and expect to be tipped. The taxis’ on-time rate is
reported to be 68%.