Aug 4, 2023 - News

FOIA Friday: New paratransit system forges forward

Illustration of the acronym FOIA with an eye that's looking around and blinking standing in for the O.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Advocates will be watching closely as Detroit works to hold its new paratransit providers to a higher standard than a former system that left some riders stranded.

Why it matters: Cities are legally required to run paratransit services that help people with disabilities get around. Riders get picked up by a driver in an accessible vehicle.

  • After the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) started managing the program itself this year instead of the former dysfunctional contractor, Transdev, it's now making the revamp more permanent.

The latest: The new paratransit program started July 1 after City Council approved five-year contracts. We received some of these contracts, including a $12.8 million deal with Southfield-based Moe Transportation, through a recent Freedom of Information Act request.

  • Unlike a previous proposal that still included highly criticized former contractor Transdev, these new contracts got the blessing of prominent advocates like Richard Clay, president of the National Federation of the Blind's Detroit chapter.
  • "[DDOT leaders] have made some great improvements to the system," Clay said during public comment in June.

Yes, but: While Clay tells Axios he's "pleased with the process" so far, he says more upgrades are needed to bring Detroit's paratransit system from just functional to first-rate.

  • He and others will be "monitoring closely" to see how DDOT enforces the performance standards written into the new contracts, and to ensure other commitments to introduce disability sensitivity training and same-day service are kept.

Axios reviewed Moe's contract to track how the city plans to hold companies accountable for their performance, including:

  • Vehicle operators must have safe recent driving records and get paid enough in order to "retain high-quality employees."
  • Driver training requirements including disability sensitivity and passenger assistance.
  • If vehicles aren't on time or don't complete their trips 95% of the time, Moe risks a "breach of contract" to be applied at the city's discretion.
  • Paying "incentives" or deducting "damages" from monthly contractor invoices based on performance, including $50 per missed trip.

What we're watching: DDOT plans to release performance metrics early next week analyzing the first month of service.


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