Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Why is the MTA punishing people for being disabled? [Actually, you can fight City Hall, (I mean the state house)]

So it's the first of August, 2023. About 3 weeks ago I actually lost my MetroCard again. It was kind of a classic goofy move. I was overdoing it trying to enter the subway. Holding a hot coffee in one hand and trying to swipe with my right hand was tough.And I remember putting my metro card into my pocket next to my wallet, not in my wallet.Thinking to myself that when I take my wallet out later I have to make sure the MetroCard doesn't go flying.Well inevitably, when I went to go home the MetroCard was gone. Of course it went flying somewhere on the subway when I took out my phone to play with it.  I must have spaced out and left my metro card on the seat in the subway.

 I was all the way up in the Bronx so I took an on-demand ride home. In the backseat of the accessory van i called the general phone number for Access Ride and reported that my card was lost. I asked them what I had to do to get a new one and they said I just did that. All I had to do was report it was lost. It didn't take 2 weeks to get a new one ,,,It actually took 24 days.  But I didn't have to go to the post office and get a money order. I didn't even have to fill out a form.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>  April 2022.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
So in September of 2018 I was going to publish this blog post. I left it hanging around, just waiting to see if I needed a little bit more leverage and getting things fixed. I did not.I went to MTA board meetings and complained about the fact that after losing your accessory Metrocard you had to go to the post office and get a money order to get it replaced. Getting a money order was punishment enough. But if you lost your metro card three times you'd have to wait 120 days to get a new Metrocard. 

After I use my 2 minutes of yelling time to complain about all the things I listed below, one of the head honchos from customer service took me out of the room and asked me to explain more about what my problem was and of the head honchos from customer service took me out of the room and asked me to explain more about what my problem was. He took me seriously and after a few months told me they were going to change the policy. 

And just talking about it we both realized that the punitive part of getting a new card made sense when they first gave out cards to people with disabilities so they can ride the subway and take buses for free.Back in the '80s and '90s these werecardboard cards. That can be used by anyone because all you had to do was wave it at the bus operator or token clerk and they would let you ride. But now we use MetroCards with electronics on them and they're disactivated when you report them lost. But the policy never changed. They want to discourage people from losing them and were afraid of fraud because the old one would work forever But now the old one is instantly deactivated when you report it lost.

Over the past couple of years I have a few friends that had lost their metro cards and they asked me what to do. Not knowing that I was very intimately involved in the procedure of what to do. I told him just to call the phone number for accessory ride and ask them what to. The answer was much better than my old answer. It was simply "We will mail you a new one."

And that's what happened to me last week. I didn't actually lose my card but it started to wear out. When I called customer service they told me to mail it back and they would send me a new one. I asked them what would happen if I just said I lost it. They said they'd start the process that day to mail me a new one and not wait for the broken one to come in the mail. So I said I needed to correct myself I couldn't find my card even though I knew it was damaged. That was 8 days ago and I got my new card in the mail today. I didn't have to wait 180 days and I didn't have to go to the post office and get a money order.

The blog post below was in draft mode since September of 2018.I never had a start I changed.org petition and I never even had to publish this post to threaten the change.org petition.

Also because of my persistence back in 2018 I was approached by the president of Disabled In Action. She invited me to some meetings and now I'm a board member of that organization.

Placeholder for link to change.org petition

I'm definitely pausing the distribution of any online petition at this point. After testifying before the MTA board yesterday the feedback I got was that this is going to be fixed.A high-level mucky muck came over to me right after I spoke to get more details about this issue so "it can be corrected". Also, on my way out of the building and assisted to a mucky muck told me that while I was speaking a lot of people in the room were already texting each other on how to fix this problem. (9/25/2018)

If you live in New York City you must be pretty familiar with Access A Ride Vans. Those big white and blue Ford diesel vans that drive people with disabilities  all over the city. These vas basically exist because years ago the disabled people of New York sued the MTA because the world's largest subway system was built a long time ago and has a lot of stairs. It was cheaper to give disabled people door-to-door transportation then to make the system work for all the cities residents. With access ride disabled people are able to be picked up and brought anywhere in New York City for $2.75. That's the same price as a subway fare, but since we can't get on the subway we get to do it in a van.

Before I became disabled all I knew about it was that it's a thing that everyone who uses it complains about. Once I became dependent on it I honestly felt it wasn't that bad. Don't get me wrong, it has an enormous room for improvement but once I figured out how it works it wasn't the end of the world. In any case I became part of a pilot program where I was able to use the Curb app and make a yellow or green taxi appear within minutes and only pay $2.75.

All access ride customers are issued in access ride MetroCard it's good for four trips a day and no fare is collected. Here are all the details on that. It doesn't say why New Yorkers with a disability are issued a MetroCard that gives them free trips so it just leads me to speculate.

  • People with disabilities have good days and bad days and on a good day most of us would rather actually take the train or the bus. The MTA is helping some disabled people transition back to "normal".
  • Driving people around door-to-door in vans is very expensive. The MTA saves a lot of money when disabled people get on a bus or subway.

Either way I very happy to take mass transit on the days I've been able to climb stairs. Last year I misplaced my card (by "misplacing"I mean I thought I lost it, but eventually it turned up) and after I thought I looked everywhere I called the MTA and ask for replacement. They told me to get a postal money order for $10 and send and mail it to them. I thought this was a little archaic, but many of the other people who use access ride might not feel comfortable paying online, so I went down to the post office.. I got my card within a reasonable amount of time and moved on with life. Unfortunately, in the past year this happen two more times. The third time it happened I actually found my MetroCard before they sent me my replacement. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it still worked and as soon as I got off the subway I called the MTA and told them I found it. They told me I was lucky because if it would have been of turned it off I would've had to wait four months for the new one to be sent to me. I thought this was a bizarre rule but I was happy that I dodged the bullet. However, two days later my card stop working. I called access ride and they said no matter what anyone said as soon as I said it was lost it needed to be turned off and could not be turned back on I had to wait 120 days. Below, is the rule that explains that.

Q. Where do I report a lost or stolen AAR MetroCard?

A. Immediately report a lost or stolen card by calling AAR at 1-877-337-2017.  NYC Transit will reissue lost or stolen  cards at its discretion after receipt of a $10 replacement fee.  After replacement of three or more lost or stolen cards, NYCT will impose a 120-day waiting period before reissuing another card.  This waiting period will also be imposed for the replacement of any subsequent cards.  Payments must be made in the form of a USPS® Postal Money Order payable to MTA New York City Transit and mailed to NYC Transit, Paratransit Division, Eligibility Unit, 130 Livingston Street, Brooklyn NY 11201.

I complained up and down the line that I felt I was being penalized for losing things.If I'm paying for the replacement why do I have to wait?  I honestly gave up on having an exception made for me because I was okay waiting 120 days. I was able to use the Curb app and when I'm able to bus drivers always let me on the bus because the card I have is not expired. Also, the staff at subway stations (including the police) open the gate for me when I show them my valid card. So, and by complaining about this policy I made it clear I wasn't asking for an exception I was asking for a change in the rule because not everyone who is disabled is going to feel that they could ask for help from the bus drivers and the subway staff to aid them in transportation needs. I really got nowhere with this complaining. Everyone thought I was trying to ask for an exception and reminding me that these were the rules.

I also lost my drivers license. Not that I drive anymore, but it was the enhanced federal version of the New York State drivers license. It was the type of card that can get me across the border into Canada or onto an airplane. I called the DMV and all I had to do was give them my credit card number and let them take about $21 for my account and I got a new one mailed to me. No trip to the post office no waiting 120 days if I lost it more than twice.

Then it occurred to me that  friend uses her credit card to refill her MetroCard at a vending machine and so do hundreds of thousands of people on a regular basis. If she were to lose her card she can report it to the MTA and get a prorated refund. Here's the website  it doesn't say anything about paying for replacement card or waiting 120 days if it happens more than twice.The first time you make a claim there is no charge. The second time there is a five dollar charge. The MTA will only efix your card twice a year.

And then there's the program where your credit card is automatically billed to your MetroCard works forever (or until the piece of plastic expires and then they send you a new one). Below are the details on that.

Q. What if my EasyPayXpress MetroCard is lost or stolen? 

A. You must immediately report your EasyPay MetroCard lost or stolen online at www.easypaymetrocard.com or call our Automated Telephone Service 24/7 at1-877-323-RIDE (7433). We will deactivate your card to protect you from unauthorized charges. Failure to report your MetroCard lost or stolen may result in unauthorized fares which you will be responsible for. You will not be liable for unauthorized EasyPay MetroCard use that occurs AFTER you notify EasyPay MetroCard, electronically, verbally or in writing, of non-operation, loss, theft or possible unauthorized use. We will send you a replacement card in the mail. Please allow 15 business days for processing.  
So here's the thing. Speaking for myself I can definitely say that people with disabilities are more likely to lose things than the general population. My disability affects my hands the most. I often drop things without knowing it. I've been hanging out with a lot of people with disabilities lately visual impairments and other cognitive issues. I'm pretty sure researches been done the disabled people or more likely to misplace things than the general population.

So why is there a trip to the post office and a 120 waiting period when a person with a disability needs to replace their MetroCard and all a person in the general population has to do is pick up the phone?

1 comment:

  1. thank you for writing and publishing this article. this article is very interesting to read for me and very easy to understand and of course very useful


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