I-Team: Governor Targets MBTA’s ‘The Ride’ Program

By Kathy Curran, WBZ-TV I-Team

BOSTON (CBS) – Governor Deval Patrick is targeting the high cost of the MBTA’s transportation service for the elderly and disabled and crediting the I-Team for spotlighting the problem.

The Ride, the MBTA’s door-to-door transit service, is a lifeline for thousands of the disabled and elderly, but that lifeline is breaking the MBTA’s budget, costing taxpayers $90 million last year alone.

WBZ-TV I-Team reporter Kathy Curran reports

The I-Team found it is a system susceptible to abuse and rampant with waste.

Now the governor has signed an executive order creating a commission to look at ways to make The Ride and other similar taxpayer-funded specialty transit more efficient.

“We want to get the most out of a buck,” Patrick told the I-Team. “It’s the public’s money and a great public service, [but] I think better co-ordination, having people talk to each other, thinking about being more efficient is a good thing for the public and how to deliver service in the most effective way.”

When the I-Team tracked The Ride, we discovered the so-called shared ride program usually only had one passenger on board for each trip.

We also found drivers with a lot of free time on their hands and witnessed The Ride’s more expensive handicapped accessible vans being used for people who really didn’t need them.

“I think your report helped and I’m not just saying that,” the governor said. “I think it’s helpful and a good thing to take a fresh look.”

State Inspector General Gregory Sullivan has been pushing for cost-saving efficiencies in the operation of The Ride.

“It seems we could’ve been saving a lot of money in the past,” said senior assistant inspector general Jack McCarthy. “When we brought this to the administration, they took appropriate action by forming this commission. We’ll see what this commission does and see if it solves the problem.”

The I-Team also exposed problems with MassHealth’s transportation system for Medicaid recipients. We spotted chauffer-driven livery cars making the trek to and from local methadone clinics with recovering drug addicts on board, even though the clinics were easily accessible by public transportation.

They are expensive trips when there’s only one person in the livery vehicle and, once again, the taxpayers are paying the freight.

“We are committed to the service,” said Patrick. “I think it’s the right thing to do, but we can do the right thing well and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

There are several ways the MBTA alone could save millions of dollars. The T could tighten eligibility requirements and apply for partial reimbursement from the federal government for many of the trips for medical appointments.

The annual cost if The Ride has almost doubled in the last five years.

The commission created by the governor’s executive order is expected to issue recommendations in late October.


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