By Michael Sack, Minneapolis Sidewalk Repair Hunters

To put it simply, Metro Mobility needs more resources to be a beneficial service to the community.

A few months ago, I was waiting at my day program in Crystal to be picked-up by my ADA-compliant bus. It was supposed to arrive at 2:26 p.m. We departed an hour later. After making multiple stops, I returned to my south Minneapolis home just before five. A week earlier, I was on board Metro Mobility for two hours and 34 minutes. Yesterday, I waited 20 minutes past my scheduled pick-up time and once I boarded, I knew I was in for another long ride.

This situation is totally unwarranted. It is unfair to both drivers and passengers. Metro Mobility drivers would prefer not to pick up so many people at once and passengers would prefer to arrive at their destinations faster. Demand for rides is increasing as the pandemic temporarily wanes. It is imperative that Metro Mobility finds a way to deal with their driver shortage and be more efficient with their routing system.

Metro Mobility has a chart on it website that has the maximum time allowed for passengers to be onboard. For example, my day program is 16 miles away, which means that I should be on the vehicle for no longer than 94 minutes. Other benchmarks include if a person is traveling just one mile, Metro Mobility can take up to 34 minutes to transport that individual.

Metro Mobility's maximum ride time chart

At the other end of the spectrum, if someone wants to travel 30 miles or more on the bus, their maximum time riding the bus is a whopping two hours and 30 minutes.

The length of rides has to change for everyone’s benefit and safety. For example, people with Autism or complex medical needs could really benefit from shorter Metro Mobility rides. It is not healthy for any passenger to be sitting on a bus for up to two or three hours. They could get stressed, develop pain, or get anxious and may have to postpone activities due to lateness.

Drivers should be treated fairly, too. Metro Mobility, possibly with the help of elected officials, needs to find a solution so that drivers do not have jammed packed routes that could cause them unnecessary stress. They deserve breaks to stay even-keeled and relaxed throughout the day.

I strongly recommend that the Minnesota state legislature delve deeper into Metro Mobility’s procedures and hold hearings to listen to people’s experiences and hear suggestions about what needs to change. More funding to hire drivers and gain more buses is a way to start.

Both drivers and passengers should welcome a thorough investigation on all-things Metro Mobility and a discussion about how to move forward with making the transit system better for everyone. After all, we all want the same thing — a reliable, efficient, and world class transportation system that serves individuals with disabilities and seniors.

Metro Mobility’s leaders, drivers, passengers, and advocates must come together to find impactful solutions that could pave a better path forward.