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DelDOT leaders brief State Council for Persons with Disabilities on paratransit challenges

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DelDOT leadership briefed the State Council for Persons with Disabilities on its efforts to remedy ongoing problems with paratransit services this week.

DelDOT Secretary Nicole Majeski says demand for paratransit, which offers an alternative to fixed-route transit for people with disabilities, fell sharply during the pandemic. But as demand approaches pre-pandemic levels, DelDOT has dozens of vacant paratransit driver positions, especially in New Castle County. Majeski says the driver shortage creates a crisis for both customers and remaining employees.

71 of DART’s 132 vacant positions are paratransit drivers – the vast majority in New Castle County. Drivers are regularly assigned twice as many trips as they can reasonably complete in a day, and on-time rates have dropped as low as 30 percent.

“Our customers aren’t getting picked up on time. Some are waiting up to an hour, they’re missing medical appointments – all of those things," she said. "It’s stress on the driver, not to mention that drivers are being asked to do overtime every single day.”

Majeski and Delaware Transit Corporation CEO John Sisson say the agency is pulling out the stops to meet demand, occasionally asking drivers in Kent and Sussex Counties to take trips in New Castle County and dispatching supervisors as drivers.

DelDOT is also preparing to offer incentives and vehicles to care providers willing to provide drivers for their clients, Majeski added.

“If an agency is able to handle those trips of their own clients, that’s less trips that we have to do and better service overall for the rest of the clients," she said.

Meanwhile, the agency is laying the groundwork to expand an on-demand service piloted in Sussex County to Newark, pending new state funding.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.