CHICAGO (CBS) — James Gilliard says he’s run into one problem after another with a transit service in DuPage County that’s supposed to get disabled people where they need to be on time.
His snags with the taxpayer-funded Ride DuPage have led to frustrations and even a painful fall.
Gilliard is legally blind, but he won’t let his disability stop him from working.
“At this point, I probably have about 50 to 60 percent of normal sight,” he said.
So he can get to work, a bus picks Gilliard up outside his apartment, or sometimes it’s one of the taxi companies that partner with Pace on their Ride DuPage transit service for people with disabilities.
“You make the reservations at most a week in advance,” Gilliard said.
Earlier this year, Gilliard complained to Pace after his ride to work was late for the fourth time in a month-and-a-half.
“I’ve been using it for about eight years. I’ve lost count of the number of complaints I’ve had to file,” he said.
Gilliard called CBS 2 after he said a driver picked him up from work 52 minutes late in January, and then dropped him off in the dark in an unfamiliar area; near his building, but not at the usual spot by his door.
“I ended up tripping, falling, losing one of my phones and the case, tearing my pants, having my knee get bloodied, and then the driver didn’t actually take me to where I needed to be. I ended up wandering around the street for about 40 minutes,” he said.
He managed to order an Uber, and that driver found him and took him the short distance home.
CBS 2 obtained an internal memo about Gilliard’s complaint, in which a Pace employee wrote, “the driver said he didn’t see the client fall,” and “the driver was at the correct location.” The memo also said “trip ran late due to a high demand of trips.”
Another memo about a trip late last year said a “shortage of drivers” caused them to “fall behind and trips began to run late.”
All in all, Gilliard has filed at least nine complaints since December.
Pace general manager Melinda Metzger said rides can run late due to heavy traffic, construction, or a rider getting sick on board; and the service has run into driver shortages.
“Right now, they’re doing very well, but it ebbs and flows throughout the whole area, throughout the country. There is such a driver shortage,” she said.
Gilliard isn’t the only one feeling the effects. CBS 2 dug into the records and found about 375 complaints about Ride DuPage since the start of 2019.
“No complaint is acceptable. However, that’s about … that’s less than 1 percent of the trips that we provide,” Metzger said.
If you ask Gilliard, those are just the riders who spoke up.
“I truly believe things like this are happening to other people,” he said.
Pace started monitoring his trips on Jan. 24, but Gilliard said he was late for work again four days later.
Pace and several suburbs in DuPage County contribute about $3 million a year to ride DuPage, plus millions in capital costs from Pace.
Pace met with Gilliard after CBS 2 reached out, and they said they’re working to improve his rides.
This wasn’t the first time CBS 2 uncovered complaints about Pace’s transportation services for disabled riders.
In 2016, Michael McDonough, an autistic teen who relies on Pace paratransit services, was left waiting for hours after his van didn’t show to pick him up.