- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - People using a new Maui transportation system for disabled riders complained to a County Council panel this week about long wait times, untrained drivers and the service’s recently installed computer system.

After hearing the complaints Thursday, officials asked Maui Economic Opportunity to spend 90 days improving its program and report back to the council’s Housing, Human Services and Transportation Committee, the Maui News (https://is.gd/KCAbxF) reported Friday.

One rider, Vivian Lindsey, was among those who spoke before the committee.

“It’s not a taxi, but we should be treated with dignity,” Lindsey said. “We’re not like a bunch of suitcases they pick up, because that’s how we feel.”

Maui Economic Opportunity took over the program last July after the service had been run by Roberts Hawaii for five years through a county transportation contract.

Maui Economic Opportunity’s CEO Lyn McNeff said her agency is allowed a 30-minute window for pickups under Americans with Disabilities Act rules. McNeff said that was part of the reason for complaints.

In the first month after the change, the county received several hundred calls and complaints, county Transportation Director Jo Anne Winer said.

The department and transit provider slowly improved the service, but riders said problems regressed after a new computer-scheduling system was installed in November.

“I don’t have a disability. But I work with people with disabilities and, from my end, if they wait, I wait,” caregiver Francis Durnham said.

McNeff said early problems with the computer system were attributed to the global positioning system and inaccurate calculations of times.

Maui Economic Opportunity and Winer said the old system was not efficient and would not have been able to keep up with the increase in riders that’s expected to double in the next five years.

Riders also said some of drivers were not properly trained to handle different kinds of wheelchairs and to safely secure passengers. One rider, Andrew Valentine, said one driver took 10 minutes trying to strap him into the bus.

“They spend a lot of time at your house trying to hook you up,” Valentine said.

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Information from: The Maui News, https://www.mauinews.com

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