Director of Communications
The year 1987 was marked with many firsts including the movie Dirty Dancing, the television show The Simpsons and disposable contact lenses. It was also the year of 98-cent gas and the beginning of Metro Call-A-Ride service. In November of that year, Bi-State Development Agency (now Metro) launched its curb-to-curb van service providing a vital transit option for citizens across St. Louis City and County who had mobility issues that prevented them from using MetroBus.
“Call-A-Ride has been a true resource for the community for 25 years. Our staff works diligently everyday to provide the best customer experience possible,” said Paul Willett, Metro’s Chief of Paratransit Operations & Service Development. “Call-A-Ride’s record speaks for itself. So far this year, 72 percent of all of our customer contacts are unsolicited commendations regarding the van operators, the office staff and the service in general. We are very proud of that number.”
The launch of Metro Call-A-Ride offered a new source of transportation used overwhelmingly by the elderly and residents who qualified under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Now, 25 years later, the service has grown to about 700,000 Metro Call-A-Ride trips a year. For many disabled or elderly customers, Metro Call-A-Ride is their only source of transportation to the doctor’s office, the grocery store, hair salon, shopping centers and other important destinations.
Being a Metro Call-A-Ride operator is demanding. Operators assist customers with all types of physical disabilities and developmental issues to get in and out of the van in every kind of weather. Some of the customers use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.
“You get to know a lot of the passengers. You find out about their families and they find out about yours,” said Metro Call-A-Ride operator Zelda Richardson. “I love my job!” she said. She and Casandra Martin have been with Metro Call-A-Ride all 25 years.
“It is extremely challenging to meet the widely varied demands of the community in providing over 10,000 trips per week on the service,” said Willett. “In order to accomplish this, we need a ‘buy in’ from the entire team to put this very complex service on the street every day. I am extremely proud to have had the opportunity to lead such a great family of talent. We’re now looking forward to the next 25 years!”
To commemorate the silver anniversary, Metro created a special 25th anniversary logo that has been placed on the rear and boarding side of each Metro Call-A-Ride van.