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The Ride to bankruptcy? T audit suggests way out

With paratransit service costing the T nearly $100 million this year, T likely to conduct eligibility interviews and money-saving proposals.

The white MBTA vans and sedans that often cart a single elderly or disabled person across the city is a familiar sight to many Bostonians. But most don’t realize that the federally mandated paratransit service called The Ride will cost the T nearly $100 million this year and will increase by 7 percent next year.

Yesterday, MBTA GM Rich Davey received findings of an internal audit on The Ride that could save $2.5 million to $7.5 million.

The audit's most significant recommendation was to conduct eligibility interviews to weed out customers who could take other modes of transit. Currently paratransit riders fill out a form and submit a doctor’s note.

“We’re the only major transit agency that doesn’t do interviews; we’re likely to move to that,” Davey said.

Paul Regan of the MBTA Advisory Board said doctors aren’t always qualified to determine who is eligible for paratransit.

“I don’t think it’s unfair at all,” Regan said of the proposal. “[The T] is not doing a medical evaluation, they are doing a technical eligibility evaluation. Doctor’s don’t fully understand that. That’s not what they do.”

Davey said the interviews could begin by year’s end.

“We don’t want to degrade the current service we do run,” Davey said, “but we do want to find cost efficiencies.”

 
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