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New York City - Disabled People Used Access-A-Ride To Get To Casinos

Published on: December 30, 2009 05:16 PM
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The MTAs budget gap is increasing, and Access-A-Rides lift for passengers to Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway [Photo: Antonelli/News]The MTAs budget gap is increasing, and Access-A-Rides lift for passengers to Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway [Photo: Antonelli/News]

New York City - Next stop for the cash-strapped NYC Transit: the casino.

The agency’s budget-busting Access-A-Ride van and car service doesn’t just take disabled passengers to the doctor’s office, pharmacy or local supermarket.

Access-A-Ride regularly takes passengers from their door to the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway to play the ponies or the 5,300 slot machines, the Daily News has learned.

“We’re here all the time,” an Access-A-Ride driver said one recent afternoon after a woman got into the back seat of his sedan for a trip home after some holiday season gambling.

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“Every day, we pick up and drop off passengers at the raceway,” another Access-A-Ride driver said before driving a wheelchair user home to Flushing, Queens, in an otherwise empty van.

The casino and raceway is a popular location. It ranks 17th among the 30 most-requested destinations for Access-A-Ride users. The vast majority are medical facilities, but the list also includes the Staten Island Mall and Kennedy Airport.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires mass transit operators provide alternate transportation to those unable to use subways or buses.

The law requires NYC Transit to provide service in the city and a short distance into Westchester and Nassau counties, where other Metropolitan Transportation Authority divisions also run some buses, transit officials said.

Access-A-Ride ridership and costs have been skyrocketing for years, and transit officials are looking to streamline operations to help close an MTA-wide budget gap of nearly $400 million dollars.

Still, NYC Transit can’t simply refuse to provide trips requested by registered users, spokesman Deirdre Parker said.

“The law is clear; we can’t prioritize trips and we do not ask what your purpose is,” Parker said. “It’s just like the bus and subway. We don’t ask where you’re going on the bus or subway. It’s public transportation.”

Approximately 50% of trips are medical-related, Parker said. About 20% are social. The rest fall into four categories: shopping/errands; school; work, or “other.”

Passengers are ferried to Empire City from as far away as Staten Island, southern Brooklyn and eastern Queens, one driver said.

The fare is the base subway-bus fare: $2.25. The actual per-trip cost to NYC Transit, which hires private companies to operate the service, is $53 dollars, Parker said.

A passenger is allowed to be accompanied by a personal care attendant, which could be a spouse, relative or friend, who rides for free. A passenger also can have a guest required to pay $2.25.

In 1999, there were approximately 48,000 registered Access-A-Ride users. By last year, that figure had risen to 123,000, NYC Transit statistics show. Trips have soared during the same time period from 1.6 million to 7.2 million last year.

Officials have attributed the increase in part to the aging of the population.

Access-A-Ride expenses have marched upward over the past decade from nearly $63 million in 1999 to about $450 million this year.

In the last three years, the city’s contribution in the form of direct subsidies and a dedicated tax have dropped to $71 million.


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1

 Dec 30, 2009 at 05:26 PM Charlie Hall Says:

This sounds worse than it is. The casino can be reached by a short transit bus ride from the Woodlawn subway station. However, that station is not handicapped accessible so that is not an option.

2

 Dec 30, 2009 at 05:35 PM boro parker Says:

Wow!! An all of us have to pay it

3

 Dec 30, 2009 at 05:36 PM Anonymous Says:

These people allegedly need Acess-A-Ride because they are "poor." Evidently, they are not so poor that they can't gamble their money away. Yet, we taxpayers have to fund their rides. Is it any wonder that the Government is broke?

4

 Dec 30, 2009 at 05:40 PM Anonymous Says:

Access A Ride is a wonderful service for the disabled to go to doctors and shopping. To extend this service to casinos is ridiculous and unconscionable in these economic times. I was totally unaware that each ride costs about $53. How can this be justified?

5

 Dec 30, 2009 at 05:43 PM Anonymous Says:

One of the reasons the state is in such terrible financial straits is that there are no checks and balances on the services it provides. This seems to be true across the board and needs to be changed. It might help if there were some oversight to weed out the illegal uses.

6

 Dec 30, 2009 at 05:50 PM m&m Says:

such a massive waste of money, it should be cancelled altogether

7

 Dec 30, 2009 at 06:02 PM David Says:

Well, that's what they're supposed to do. The ride service is for those who cannot take regular public transit, which, incidentally, also goes to the casinos, racetracks, etc.

It's not the government's job to choose where you travel. Besides, the casinos are specifically licensed by the state.

Would you want the state to decide whether to transport a handicapped yungermann to beis medrosh?

8

 Dec 30, 2009 at 06:18 PM Anonymous Says:

Access-a-ride is planning its own obsolescence. It is required by law to make up for a mass transit system that is not fully accessible by the disabled. Considering that all busses accept wheelchairs and many train stations are getting there the end is near.
The doomsday plan already requires every ride be considered for alternative transportation, if the destination can be reached by busses then there will be no accees-a-ride. In some cases the disabled will be taken to the closest elevator served train station and then sent on their own.
There will be a big outcry when this free limo service is stopped but it is not a right, it is a temporary solution to a legal challenge when the system was not handicapped accesible.

9

 Dec 30, 2009 at 06:22 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

These people allegedly need Acess-A-Ride because they are "poor." Evidently, they are not so poor that they can't gamble their money away. Yet, we taxpayers have to fund their rides. Is it any wonder that the Government is broke?

you are so intolerant. this program is not for "poor" people, it's for people who cannot access subways and buses. You of course don't access any government funding.

10

 Dec 30, 2009 at 06:23 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

Access A Ride is a wonderful service for the disabled to go to doctors and shopping. To extend this service to casinos is ridiculous and unconscionable in these economic times. I was totally unaware that each ride costs about $53. How can this be justified?

It is justified because Access A Ride passengers cannot access regular transit. What's your problem? You should never need it. They are extremely unreliable and it's nervewracking waiting for them to show up. However, it beats being stuck at home. Those of you who complain the most probably drive gas guzzling SUVs.

11

 Dec 30, 2009 at 06:47 PM serel chana maness Says:

nope, lt shouldn't be cancelled, lt definitely need checks and balances.

12

 Dec 30, 2009 at 06:57 PM Anonymous Says:

Why is this subsidized service any different to any other subsidy provided by working taxpayers to those who for one reason or another get favored treatment from the politicians. We give special money for subsidized rent and after school daycare to parents (not only minorities but chareidi families in BP and WB who have very large numbers of children, even if the parents don't work or decide to have more children. What makes them more or less entitled to "free money" than a disabled person who wants to go the racetrack??

13

 Dec 30, 2009 at 07:23 PM Avi Says:

I don't understand. The subways and buses don't care where you are going because they have regular routes. They don't ask you where you want to go because they don't care. You get on when you want and you leave when you want. The bus or train is going the same way in either case.

It sounds like Access-A-Ride is a taxi service for the disabled that is completely subsidized by the rest of the tax payers. I'm all for accommodating handicapped people, but I don't feel I should need to pay 25 times as much as them in order to do so. The city of NY should treat this as a private car service. Let the rider pay upwards of 40 or 50 dollars, just like I do when I want a private ride to drive me door to door.

14

 Dec 30, 2009 at 07:49 PM 6.2 liter trailblazer SS Says:

#10, I get 12 mpg at most, n I don't know what ur point is in brigging gas guzzling SUV's into this is. Did u get cut off today by a suburban? Maybe a guy in an escalade honked u? I dunno. But I blame this problem on all the ppl driving priuses. If they r so concerned about the environment then they should know that these access ride buses use a lot of gas and they should shofer these ppl around in their green little econ-box hybrids.

15

 Dec 30, 2009 at 08:56 PM Anonymous Says:

It would probably be a lot wiser to provide services for the handicapped and disabled with a rebate or a credit of a set dollar amount on the tax return. If they'd sit down and think of other ideas, it would be a lot cheaper on the MTA.

16

 Dec 30, 2009 at 09:18 PM JUST THE FACTS Says:

This program was established because it was less expensive to run than it would be to make all NYC transit accessable to the handicapped.

Income has nothing to do with eligibility and the merit of their destination doesn't matter. A rider can go from home to the track to a bar each and every day, just as mass transit users can. As usual the newspaper headline is misleading.

17

 Dec 30, 2009 at 09:21 PM MO Says:

This doesn't bother me any more than having to subsidize people who choose to learn in kollel all day.

18

 Dec 30, 2009 at 10:38 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #14  
6.2 liter trailblazer SS Says:

#10, I get 12 mpg at most, n I don't know what ur point is in brigging gas guzzling SUV's into this is. Did u get cut off today by a suburban? Maybe a guy in an escalade honked u? I dunno. But I blame this problem on all the ppl driving priuses. If they r so concerned about the environment then they should know that these access ride buses use a lot of gas and they should shofer these ppl around in their green little econ-box hybrids.

I don't drive any vehicle. I take public transit. AND I qualify for Access A Ride which I hardly ever use because it is so unreliable. The drivers are incompetent and don't know where they are going, one guy actually drove around in circles and I had to tell him which way to go--even with a GPS!! BH I can still kreekh up and down the stairs at the subway stations. If Access A Ride doesn't show up as scheduled, the passenger can take a cab and be reimbursed for cab fare for a scheduled ride, which is a lot cheaper than $53.

19

 Dec 30, 2009 at 10:44 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #9  
Anonymous Says:

you are so intolerant. this program is not for "poor" people, it's for people who cannot access subways and buses. You of course don't access any government funding.

It is for poor people who are disabled. In order to be eligible for access-a-ride, you must show that you are poor. Get the facts before you blog.

20

 Dec 30, 2009 at 10:55 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

It is justified because Access A Ride passengers cannot access regular transit. What's your problem? You should never need it. They are extremely unreliable and it's nervewracking waiting for them to show up. However, it beats being stuck at home. Those of you who complain the most probably drive gas guzzling SUVs.

There are thousands of destinataions other than the race track. Yes I drive the SUV that I paid for, with the gas that I paid for, with the insurance that I paid for, and since I don't have "extra money" to gamble, I don't go to race tracks and play slot machines.

Thats actually not correct. If I had extra money I still wouldn't gamble.

21

 Dec 30, 2009 at 09:38 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

It is justified because Access A Ride passengers cannot access regular transit. What's your problem? You should never need it. They are extremely unreliable and it's nervewracking waiting for them to show up. However, it beats being stuck at home. Those of you who complain the most probably drive gas guzzling SUVs.

And they probably smoke unfiltered cigars, eat copious amounts of saturated fat and drink undiluted grain alcohol.

22

 Dec 30, 2009 at 11:44 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #18  
Anonymous Says:

I don't drive any vehicle. I take public transit. AND I qualify for Access A Ride which I hardly ever use because it is so unreliable. The drivers are incompetent and don't know where they are going, one guy actually drove around in circles and I had to tell him which way to go--even with a GPS!! BH I can still kreekh up and down the stairs at the subway stations. If Access A Ride doesn't show up as scheduled, the passenger can take a cab and be reimbursed for cab fare for a scheduled ride, which is a lot cheaper than $53.

If you can take mass transit-how are you eligible for Access A Ride? Isn't part of certification a physician writing that you can't take mass transit.

23

 Dec 31, 2009 at 12:16 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #19  
Anonymous Says:

It is for poor people who are disabled. In order to be eligible for access-a-ride, you must show that you are poor. Get the facts before you blog.

you are wrong. it's based on disability, not income. there are testing sites where you are put through your paces, there is a mock up of a city bus, you are asked to walk a certain distance. Do you know what YOU are talking about???

24

 Dec 31, 2009 at 12:18 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #22  
Anonymous Says:

If you can take mass transit-how are you eligible for Access A Ride? Isn't part of certification a physician writing that you can't take mass transit.

BH I am not completely disabled. You should be happy, I am saving you a lot of money when I take mass transit.

25

 Dec 31, 2009 at 08:06 AM Anonymous Says:

I all way see these buses riding empty tops one passenger. What a waste. I wish to be the owner of this company what fraud wow

26

 Dec 31, 2009 at 08:55 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

It is justified because Access A Ride passengers cannot access regular transit. What's your problem? You should never need it. They are extremely unreliable and it's nervewracking waiting for them to show up. However, it beats being stuck at home. Those of you who complain the most probably drive gas guzzling SUVs.

Excuse me but does regular NYC transit go to casinos. Your argument is totally ridiculous.

27

 Dec 31, 2009 at 08:57 AM Anonymous Says:

i think access a ride should have routes just like buses do, and the disabled people should wait at a stop like everyone else - i understand they need a little more help than others, but what NYC transit is doing is completely overboard, they are running a private taxi service for disabled people and we (the tax payer) are paying for it

28

 Dec 31, 2009 at 09:28 AM yismeicha Says:

Let me start by saying that Access-A-Ride is a huge waste of money and shouldn't have been implemented in the first place. That said, why should there be a difference where the passanger goes? It is in place of regular public transportation; we don't tell subway riders where they can take the train, how do we have a right to tell Access-A-Ride passangers where they can get a ride to?

P.S. It would save us a ton of money if we got rid of all the vehicles and just reimbursed for taxi or car service rides.

29

 Dec 31, 2009 at 10:18 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

It is justified because Access A Ride passengers cannot access regular transit. What's your problem? You should never need it. They are extremely unreliable and it's nervewracking waiting for them to show up. However, it beats being stuck at home. Those of you who complain the most probably drive gas guzzling SUVs.

we may drive gas guzzling suvs but we pay for the gas not the govt or state,
and for 53 bucks what it costs access a ride, call a car service for a fraction of the price , and if u need to go to the casino to waste money call ur own cab dont waste tax payers money

30

 Dec 31, 2009 at 11:14 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #8  
Anonymous Says:

Access-a-ride is planning its own obsolescence. It is required by law to make up for a mass transit system that is not fully accessible by the disabled. Considering that all busses accept wheelchairs and many train stations are getting there the end is near.
The doomsday plan already requires every ride be considered for alternative transportation, if the destination can be reached by busses then there will be no accees-a-ride. In some cases the disabled will be taken to the closest elevator served train station and then sent on their own.
There will be a big outcry when this free limo service is stopped but it is not a right, it is a temporary solution to a legal challenge when the system was not handicapped accesible.

Really, have you ever been on a bus that needs to take on a wheelchair? You can be delayed there and miss your appointments, because there are always problems with the wheel chair lifts.

31

 Dec 31, 2009 at 06:25 PM Anonymous Says:

As the mother of a disabled young man, I certainly understand the need for Access A Ride. Using it to go to casinos is WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

32

 Dec 31, 2009 at 06:38 PM A Says:

Reply to #27  
Anonymous Says:

i think access a ride should have routes just like buses do, and the disabled people should wait at a stop like everyone else - i understand they need a little more help than others, but what NYC transit is doing is completely overboard, they are running a private taxi service for disabled people and we (the tax payer) are paying for it

There are disabled people who are unable to get to bus stops, unable to hang around bus stops waiting for buses, what do you want them to do, stay at home forever?

BTW, NYC transit is also subsidized by the tax payer. I haven't used a train or bus in over a decade but my taxes are used to subsidize you and other mass transit users. Why should I have to pay so that your fare is kept low? Pay the real cost of using mass transit and stop raising bridge and tunnel tolls that are used to subsidize you.

33

 Dec 31, 2009 at 06:42 PM Anonymous Says:

Why is it that every time the gov't comes up with a good and necessary idea, it gets perverted? We need to establish stringent rules for use of this service.

34

 Dec 31, 2009 at 06:51 PM Anonymous Says:

one last note: it's not a private taxi service. Access A Ride buses pick up multiple passengers and make multiple stops.

35

 Jan 22, 2010 at 11:59 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

These people allegedly need Acess-A-Ride because they are "poor." Evidently, they are not so poor that they can't gamble their money away. Yet, we taxpayers have to fund their rides. Is it any wonder that the Government is broke?

The people requiring Access-A-Ride are not necessarily "poor", but rather disabled. I use Access-A-Ride mainly to get back and forth to work. I also agree that trips to the Yonkers casino is a bit much. But without Access-A-Ride, I would not be able to work and would ultimately wind up on welfare which would cost the taxpayers a lot more than a trip on Access-A-Ride.

36

 May 10, 2010 at 03:54 PM anonymously Says:

people go out &broadway; show& dinner byaccess- a- ride so what the diff.

37

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