Norwalk changes late-evening transit provider

NORWALK — After a 90-day pilot program to provide late evening transportation services weekdays only from 7 to 10:45 p.m., the City Council March 6 decided to continue the program but switch from Fiesta Taxi, the current provider, to MV Transportation. April 15 is the proposed date for the change.

It is part of the Norwalk Transportation Department’s Dial-A-Ride program for senior and disabled residents of Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs, offering door-to-door pick up and drop off.

MV Transportation provides week day dial-a-ride transportation requiring an advanced pick up and take home reservation.

Norwalk Transportation Director James C. Parker said MV Transportation will continue to require advance reservations for day-time service within the city limits and Santa Fe Springs, but will have to respond to rides on demand in the evening hours.

Parker said he will continue to study the use of a private carrier, such as Uber or Lyft, with a city subsidy. However, it would require permission from the Federal Transportation Administration, he noted.

Staff suggested continuing with Fiesta Taxi for evening services, which charges $60,000 less, but “under close observation” in light of some complaints. Parker said complaints were minimal and six were by one person.

But Councilman Tony Ayala said “people must have absolute confidence of being picked up.” He said one person waiting for a ride to a dialysis clinic said the taxi never showed up.

Resident Jerry Ori, who uses dial-a-ride, supported MV Transportation, saying “they never missed a pickup.” He said he was concerned that a Fiesta Taxi dispatcher could not absolutely guarantee he would be picked up, telling him “I can’t see into the future.”

Mayor Pro Tem Leonard Shryock said the council may have been hasty in contracting with Fiesta for evening services because of their “low-ball bid.”

Shryock, Mayor Luigi Vernola, Councilwoman Margarita Rios and Ayala voted for the switch. Councilwoman Jennifer Perez was absent.

In a written report to the council, Parker said Fiesta Taxi, which provides same day service on demand, and pledged to have a designated car in Norwalk at all times, received the contract Oct. 17 for the late service.

“During the trial period for the ‘enhanced service,’ beginning Nov. 1, 2017 through Jan.31, 2018,” 126 calls for late evening service were logged by Fiesta’s dispatcher, and 84 trips were made by [dial-a-ride] patrons.

“The difference of 42 trips is due mainly to 28 trips being canceled and 14 no shows by [dial-a-ride] patrons. However, there were six verified complaints by one patron regarding a lack of service reliability of Fiesta; including three driver no shows and three late vehicle arrivals resulting in no shows by the passengers.

According to Parker, city staff disseminated approximately 280 questionnaires regarding late-evening dial-a-ride service, and received 86 responses. Out of the 86 responses, only 18 percent had used the late-evening service and 82 percent had not used the service although a few respondents said they will try in the future.