(TRENTON) – Taking steps to improve efficiency and accessibility to paratransit services in New Jersey for disabled and elderly residents, the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee advanced two bills on Monday.
The first bill (A-2429), sponsored by the Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Carol Murphy and Bill Moen would establish the Transportation Services Coordination Task Force. The group would study ways to better coordinate transit services, particularly for people with disabilities and then make recommendations for NJ TRANSIT, the New Jersey Department of Transportation and counties.
Another measure (A-2456) would provide that a person eligible for Access Link – a paratransit service through NJ TRANSIT for people with disabilities – would automatically be eligible for NJ TRANSIT’s reduced fare program for seniors and disabled passengers. Access Link riders would be issued a NJ TRANSIT Reduced Fare ID when they are deemed eligible for Access Link. The bill is sponsored by Benson, Murphy and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle.
“Paratransit providers serve our most vulnerable, including seniors and people with disabilities who would otherwise have difficulty using public transportation,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Though these services are intended to make transit more convenient and equitable for disabled riders, we’ve heard from many customers who have experienced significant delays and service interruptions. We’re determined to find ways to improve efficiency and coordination between Access Link and local units so that riders can get where they need to go without hassle, as well as expand access to the NJT’s reduced fare program.”
“Access Link and other paratransit services are a vital resource for residents with disabilities. However, we know there’s room for growth in how these programs operate,” said Murphy (D-Burlington). “Disabled residents should never be waiting 90 minutes or more just to catch a bus, with no status updates from the paratransit provider. It’s time we reform our paratransit system to ensure riders have a more positive experience.”
“Paratransit should be accessible and reliable to all customers, and we hear too often from residents that it is not,” said Moen (D-Camden, Gloucester). “The purpose of this council will be to better connect paratransit agencies statewide so that the system can be depended on by disabled residents.”
“Riders who use NJ TRANSIT’s Access Link services may also be eligible for the reduced fare program and not realize it,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “There’s currently no coordination between these two programs, so riders may be missing out. By linking the programs together so that recipients receive their ID card when they enroll in Access Link, we can ensure more people will take advantage of this program.”
The bills now head to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.