Despite showing some improvement during the summer, the company hired by the MBTA to streamline service for The Ride is still struggling to provide on-time trips for passengers with disabilities, frustrated officials said Monday.
MBTA officials said they would, for a second time, postpone Global Contact Services taking over scheduling and dispatching for about one-third of daily The Ride passengers. The North Carolina company received a $38.5 million contract in 2016 to take over scheduling from the three transportation companies that also provide the van and taxi rides for riders with disabilities, but has been unable to get its on-time service and other performance metrics to consistent, acceptable levels to add the new trips.
“I think we’re disappointed in the vendor,” Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said. “And I think a lot of very hard work is going on to support a better transition for our passengers.”
Global Contact has already taken over dispatching from two vendors that serve about two-thirds of The Ride passengers, but the Oct. 1 scheduled handover of the final subset of passengers is now delayed at least one month. Those customers, largely in the Metrowest area, will continue to book rides with Veterans Taxi in Waltham.
The Ride serves about 7,000 passengers a day.
The Global Contact contract promised to produce more efficient routes and significant savings to the MBTA. Instead, the company has generated a torrent of complaints about missed trips and delays, and the MBTA has responded by withholding hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to Global Contact.
Service did improve some over the summer as Global Contact hired additional staff and began working more closely with T officials to address issues. But its performance has dropped off again in September, as wait times on dispatch calls have sometimes exceeded the T’s 90-second goal, and the company did not meet a goal of 90 percent on-time performance during the week of Sept. 14.
“We still have concerns about their ability to take on significant volume,” said Ben Schutzman, the T’s director of transportation innovation.
Global Contact chief operating officer Bryan Overcash defended the company’s September performance.
“September is a historically busy, challenging month for The Ride due to higher trip counts and back-to-school traffic. Despite the increase in trips and traffic congestion, service has continued to improve,” Overcash said in a statement. He said the company would work with the T to prepare for the final dispatching takeover.
MBTA board chairman Joseph Aiello said the delay is a “sound decision” to minimize problems for passengers, but said there have been “disturbing signs” with the Global Contact contract. He called on officials to closely review how and why the new system had run into problems.
The T still believes in the concept of a centralized dispatch service, Pollack said, but “we need to make sure we get it done right.”