Broward County Man Calls Attention to ‘Bad Service' by Paratransit Bus Service

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It’s a service geared to help the elderly and disabled get around town, but one family says they can’t rely on the Broward County Transportation Options Program called “TOPS.”

The TOPS service offers paratransit and bus passes for those in need.

Denis Herrmann says those buses represented a much-needed service to help with his aging mother.

“My mother requires a lot of assistance, and there are a lot of things she can’t do at the house,” Herrmann said.

Herrmann signed his mom up to use the TOPS service three times a week. The bus takes her from his home to a nearby senior center.

“It gives her three days of a respite from sitting at the house here and it gives my wife and I three days where we can schedule other activities and run errands,” Herrmann said.

But he says the bus service ended up being an inconvenience.

“There was a half hour delay here, a 45-minute delay there,” Herrmann said.

Herrmann says after a couple of months he started tracking late pick-ups, no-shows and what he considered scary situations.

“They actually picked them up at 4:30 in the evening and they didn’t drop my mother off until 10:20 that evening, so in other words she was on the bus for almost 6 hours,” Herrmann said about one incident.

After reaching out to the county, Herrmann called NBC 6 Responds.

We found out of more than 800,000 pickups by Broward TOPS last year, roughly 91,000 were late. That’s 11% of the time.

After reaching out to Broward County Transit, a representative sent the following statement regarding Herrmann’s complaint, “The TOPS Paratransit service is experiencing vehicle capacity issues relating to both increasing ridership and transition issues due to the end of the contract with a previous vendor on December 31, 2019.  As a result, higher than normal service delays and call waiting times are occurring in the short-term." 

In order to address this capacity issue, the current TOPS vendor has hired new drivers who began operating in service on January 20, 2020.  Another new class of drivers will begin on January 27, 2020, with an additional 30 driving candidates expected to begin TOPS service on February 5, 2020," the statement read. "In addition, BCT will be adding another 102 wheelchair lift equipped paratransit vehicles to our fleet.  The first of these 10 new vehicles were placed in service on January 21, 2020 and the remaining 92 will be put in service, as they are delivered, between now and February 23, 2020.  It is expected that TOPS service will improve as the TOPS vendor reaches full staffing and the additional new vehicles are introduced into the system in February."

"In the circumstance relating to the service issues experienced by Ms. Herrmann, BCT reached out to Mr. Denis Herrmann, her son, on January 15, 2020 to offer an apology. BCT staff has worked with the TOPS vendor to take specific actions to improve service provided by the vendor.  BCT staff also provided Mr. Herrmann with phone numbers for the TOPS Call Center, as well as BCT Customer Service, and encouraged him to call whenever there is an issue with his mother’s trips, so it can be resolved immediately. The pick-ups and drop-offs are monitored in real-time by the TOPS vendor utilizing paratransit dispatching software.   When trips are identified as running more than 30 minutes late,  our TOPS vendor is required to contact the customer at the number they have on file to update them on the late arrival.”

Herrmann hopes the changes will fix the service issue, not just for his mother, but for other riders as well.

“We are talking about people that are fragile, people that cannot communicate, people who have needs,” Herrmann said.

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