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Audit shows King County Metro's Access Paratransit system needs improvements

On Tuesday, King County auditors revealed over the last decade, Access transportation costs have increased while on-time performance has declined. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE (KOMO) – On Tuesday, King County auditors revealed over the last decade, Access transportation costs have increased while on-time performance has declined.

In addition, Access, operated by Metro Transit, has failed to promote the program to those who speak English as a second language.

Metro Transit was aware of these concerns and told KOMO on Wednesday it, in fact, worked with the auditors over the last few months to prepare the report.

“I really want to clearly state, that our Access Paratransit system is working, but we need to find a way to better meet our customers' need,” said Chris O’Claire, Metro Transit Assistant General Manager.

Per the report, Access Paratransit, a federally mandated program outlined in the American Disability Act, provided nearly 900,000 rides to over 8,000 rides in 2016.

Some riders say this report echoes complaints they’ve had for many years.

“Either you’re two hours early or three hours late,” said Kibibi Monie, who said she’s been riding Access for more than 10 years.

Rose Yu’s son Asher has a developmental disability. He’s been riding Access the last two years.

“I’d say once a week there’s something that I have to attend to," he said.

Metro Transit currently subcontracts all aspects of the Access Paratransit system to three companies: Veolia/Transdev, First Transit, and Solid Ground.

Critics question if this business structure.

“We see that Metro is subcontracting its service, and washing its hands of responsibility for really poor service that’s not meeting federal standards,” said Susan Koppelman of the Transit Riders Union and spokesperson for Stop Veolia Seattle.

On Wednesday, Metro Transit told KOMO they are currently accepting proposals for a new contractor starting in 2018.

“This will be a single contractor with an umbrella contract,” O’Claire said.

The contract length will be five years, renewable up to ten years, according to Metro Transit spokesperson, Jeff Switzer.

“This will be a single contractor with an umbrella contract," he said.

In the report, auditors provide recommendations to, “address inefficient practices, improve service, and ensure equitable access” to the Access system.

Metro Transit says they are already working to address many of these shortcomings. By the end of the summer, Metro Transit hopes to have mobile ticketing, smaller vans available, and improved customer service options.

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