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Sun Metro Lift passengers tell city officials service 'appalling'

By: Genevieve Curtis
EL PASO, Texas --Dozens of disabled El Pasoans are fed up with the service they receive from the Sun Metro LIFT Program and told City Council members on Tuesday at a transportation meeting the type of problems they are dealing with.
 
For many disabled El Pasoans, like Jesus Baltista, who is blind, getting around town can be tough but many say the LIFT service, which is designed to make it easier, actually makes it harder.
 
Riders told City Council members they're tired of being late or missing work, school and doctor appointments because they can't depend on the bus to be on time or they're forgotten all together.
Plus others say they've been stuck on the bus for more than two hours.
 
Its a consistent thing that happens to us we are left their stranded and our fear is do we have a bus or do we not, said Baltista
 
When they call for answers riders say they routinely receive an automated message telling them, "Your bus is on its way."
 
One rider who is also blind, told the council he's been left at a college campus long after everyone else is gone wondering if he will be able to go home too.
 
They fear they are not going to pick them up or they drive them around for two hours before they take them home, thats inhumane, said Baltista.
 
Another parents called the service appalling, and said her disabled son was driven all around town for more than two hours on what should have been a short trip. Other times she said he was dropped off behind his apartment complex.
 
Dialysis patients said they have a life threatening concern, when they're late for appointments; they get less time on the machines which help keep them alive.
 
The city should find some kind of way to prioritize the lift for them, said LIFT rider, Raul Zamarripa.
 
Zamarripa said he's been using the LIFT program for 20 years he said they've made some improvements.

"You can't satisfy everyone all the time, but if they didn't care they wouldn't try," said Zamarripa.

In 2012 the city privatized the LIFT and contracted a company called MV Transportation to run the lift.

Deputy City Manager of Transportation Jane Shang said, since then, the services improved, ridership is up and wait times are down, though still not ideal.
 
There are positives; do we have room to grow? Is there room for more improvements? Definitely and we are going to make those changes and adjustments, said Shang.
 
Shang said that would include looking at separating and prioritizing the riders medical needs.
 
City Manager Joyce Wilson said they plan to audit the LIFT see where there is room for improvement.
 
Rep. Emma Acosta also made several other suggestions for improvement including efforts to make sure dialysis patients can get priority, efforts can be made to get passengers two and from work on time, requiring all drivers to take sensitivity training, making sure information is available in both Spanish and English. 

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