BOSTON – The MBTA has announced temporary updates to the T’s paratransit service, The RIDE, in a continuing effort to prioritize safety, protect the health and safety of the T’s customers and workforce, and to preserve the continuity of transit services for those who must travel for purposes that are absolutely necessary. These temporary changes were made in consultation with The Riders’ Transportation Access Group, the Boston Center for Independent Living, and the Massachusetts Senior Action Council.
“These measures are being implemented after carefully considering how the spread of COVID-19 could affect the most vulnerable members of our community,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “Although some of these changes may create inconveniences for some customers, these are being put in place in an effort to do everything we can to protect the health and safety of those customers and RIDE vehicle drivers, while continuing to provide this vital service.”
Already in effect unless otherwise noted, RIDE updates include the elimination of shared RIDE trips, temporarily extending RIDE eligibility and postponing eligibility appointments, adjustments to booking windows, updates to subscriptions, and a reduction in transfer trips.
· Eliminating Shared Trips: Until further notice, every effort will be made to avoid trips where customers are sharing a vehicle. RIDE customers will continue to be able to take a personal care attendant or guests on their vehicle.
· Extending Eligibility and Postponing Eligibility Appointments: The RIDE Eligibility Center (TREC) is currently closed to in-person assessments. On a temporary basis, existing customers with expiring eligibility will be extended automatically. New RIDE customers may be granted temporary eligibility if they meet the medical necessity criteria provided to their licensed healthcare provider by TREC.
· Booking Windows Adjustments: Effective Saturday, March 28, RIDE customers will temporarily be allowed to book trips only 1-3 days in advance. This change is intended to prevent cancellations and service disruptions for customers with necessary travel as business availability changes due to COVID-19. All trips already booked will not be affected.
· Subscription Process Updates: All RIDE customers with subscription trips will be contacted to confirm that their automatically renewing trips are still required. This is intended to reduce cancellations for destinations that are closed.
· Reduction of Transfer Trips: The RIDE will make every effort to eliminate currently occurring transfer trips to reduce customer interaction with multiple drivers.
· Daily Vehicle Cleaning: All MBTA fleet vehicles, including RIDE vehicles, are disinfected every 24 hours.
· Delay of RIDE Software Transition: Due to COVID-19, the Routematch Software Transition scheduled for late March as been delayed. The RIDE will be in touch when an updated timeline for the transition has been determined.
The MBTA strongly urges customers to avoid any and all unnecessary travel. Residents over the age of 70 or with underlying health conditions, who are considered at high risk when exposed to COVID-19, should limit social interactions with other people as much as possible, in accordance with guidance issued by the Department of Public Health.
Enhanced Cleaning and Disinfecting
In addition to encouraging good hygiene practices and social distancing, the MBTA is continuing its enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols, which includes:
- Disinfecting all fleet vehicles – buses, trolleys, subway cars, Commuter Rail coaches, ferries, and RIDE vehicles – every twenty-four hours;
- Cleaning all high-contact surfaces such as handrails, fare gates, and fare vending machines in subway stations once every four hours.
The MBTA continues to follow guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, with the MBTA encouraging its riders and the public to:
- Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds;
- Cover coughs and sneezes;
- Stay home if sick;
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth;
- Clean areas that are frequently touched with sanitizing spray or wipes.