Recent letters to the editor have criticized the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority for not using private providers to operate its paratransit service. This service is mandated by the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and the New York State Transportation Law. These statutes build upon earlier laws designed to fully integrate the disabled into the mainstream of life.
Before starting paratransit service in 1993, the NFTA evaluated alternative management options, including using private, for-profit providers as well as operating the service ourselves. The evaluation involved the Accessible Transportation Committee on the Disabled that was established in 1990 and the NFTA's Committee on the Disabled.
These committees are still functioning today and are composed of members of the disabled community and representatives of social-service agencies in Erie and Niagara counties.
Cost was a primary consideration in the analysis of management options, but quality of service was also a key.
Regarding cost, Metro successfully negotiated a labor agreement, with its union calling for a wage rate for paratransit drivers that compares very favorably with private operators. As a result, by the time the paratransit system is fully operational in 1997, the approximate cost per trip in Metro's PAL system will be $15 versus the $20 that is cited in the recent letters as indicative of costs to be expected if private operators assumed control of the service.
A Metro-operated paratransit system was chosen as the most cost-effective option available to provide quality service. It is a choice that was endorsed unanimously by both the Governor's Committee and the NFTA's Committee on the Disabled as the best approach to meeting an important transportation need in our community.
RICHARD T. SWIST
Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority