Letter: Able-Ride service is improving
Newsday's coverage of Able-Ride ["Not so 'NICE,' " News, June 4] offers only a partial picture of the facts. Readers should know that Able-Ride minibuses carry an average of 1.3 passengers per hour in vehicles that have a capacity of eight passengers.
Nassau Inter-County Express is trying to transition Able-Ride from a system that has been largely one passenger, one trip at a time, to a true shared-ride system, which is what it is supposed to be. Readers should also know that the issues raised in the article were addressed and ended several weeks ago.
NICE's goal is modest: Its objective is to carry two passengers per hour, instead of 1.3, by combining the travel of more Able-Ride customers. Its efforts are designed to find the right balance of offering quality paratransit and efficient travel in an economical way that is responsive to taxpayers.
In early May, in its effort to combine trips, NICE experienced scheduling and technical problems that led to service delays. Three weeks ago, NICE pulled back on some steps, and the issues from earlier in the month have gone away; complaints to the Able-Ride call center are now below pre-May numbers. Instead, NICE will more gradually phase in its ride-sharing policy as training and technology are improved.
Many, including people with disabilities, have spoken publicly about the inefficiency of the Able-Ride system, which has been referred to as a taxi service. At $3.75 for a one-way trip to almost anywhere in the county, Able-Ride is far less expensive for its users than private transportation. While Able-Ride was to be gutted under Long Island Bus service cuts proposed in March 2011, under NICE, the service area will remain unchanged through Dec. 31, 2014.
Operating a reservations-based paratransit service that provides about 1,100 daily rides is a significant challenge. While it's a shared-ride service, service is highly individualized, and riders often have distinct needs. NICE has ongoing discussions with advocates for disabled people to ensure the company is fully aware of the needs and to discuss ways to make Able-Ride more efficient.
NICE has always appreciated how important transportation is in the lives of our Able-Ride customers and has tried to take all steps with the needs of those members of our community foremost in mind. Whatever issues have occurred have come out of an abundance of ambition, not a lack of concern.
Michael Setzer, Garden City
Editor's note: The writer is the chief executive of the Nassau Inter-County Express, which operates Able-Ride.