RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Care Van riders fed up with poor service and rude drivers want GRTC to find a permanent fix or get out of the specialized transportation business. People who called us say their health and jobs are in jeopardy because of it.
There are longstanding service complaints that are sometimes sporadic, and then there's a flare up like now. What's new is the company GRTC hired back in December to make the spotty service reliable and safe for disabled patients - it's not there yet.
It's impractical for Kathryn Merritt to walk long distances after total ankle replacement. She makes reservations for pick up and rides Care Van specialized transportation. Over five years, Kathryn says she waits more than ride.
"They're disorganized and there aren't enough drivers," said Merritt.
A 10-minute ride home from the grocery store can turn into hours. Kathryn says the Care Van driver will pass her house, go across town, fill a reservation and drive back to drop her off.
Kathryn talks about drivers becoming belligerent.
"If I ask them if I'm going home, because I have groceries. They don't answer... and if they do, 'I'll let you know.'"
Ice Man, another frequent rider, dreads the day his boss tells him, "you're a good worker, but you don't have reliable transportation."
"At this point, they are very understanding, but they get frustrated because they have to find somebody to fill in for me," said Ice Man.
Both say they've been left and written up as no shows.
"I'm sitting in front of my house and I had to cancel my doctor's appointment," said Merritt. "I've lost several jobs."
GRTC provides the buses. MV Transportation supplies the drivers and management services.
GRTC says MV is not meeting expectations right now, but it's holding MV accountable. Both are working to fix the problems.
"There's a higher demand," said Public Relations Manager Carrie Rose Pace. "More people wanting to ride. Still not enough drivers as of today; however, we're aggressively recruiting."
Right now, nine new drivers are being trained, with new classes and hires planned later this summer. Both companies want a complaint-free operation.
Kathryn still worries.
"I can handle them being late, but how about the people who are old and can barely walk - cancer patients, diabetes patients," said Merritt.
Ice Man is demanding change.
"I want GRTC to either fix this situation or get out," said Ice Man
GRTC is required to provide para-transit service because it gets federal dollars for its regular bus service. If MV can't fix the problem, GRTC says it can terminate the contract and get a refund.
They need drivers, so if would like to drive for Care Van, call 804-782-2273.