This file photo shows a busy morning outside the Beacon Group building in Tucson. Complaints about delays or no-shows from transit shuttle drivers have increased in recent weeks. The problem: More people are using transport services again and there is a shortage of drivers.
Mike Christy, Arizona Daily Star 2013
When Rusty Bowen’s ride wasn’t shown a few Sundays ago, he was stuck in his wheelchair in front of a locked church in over 100 degrees Celsius.
It was the second time within a few weeks that a Total Transit driver did not come to Bowen or not on time.
Complaints about driver delays or no-shows have increased in recent weeks, said Jim DeGrood, deputy director of the Regional Transportation Authority. The RTA contracts with Total Transit, a private transportation company, for most of its Sun Shuttle dial-a-ride services.
The problem, which is occurring across the country and which affects people with disabilities significantly, is a mixture of two things: more and more people are using driving services again as fears of COVID-19 subside, and there is a serious shortage of drivers.
Within the Tucson city limits, Sun Van provides transportation for those who meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) eligibility requirements. There’s also the RTA’s Sun Shuttle Dial-a-Ride, which provides door-to-door paratransit service to people with disabilities living outside of the city limits or residents of Tucson who need travel outside of the city limits.
DeGrood said demand for these driving services dropped sharply when the pandemic broke out and it is now difficult to attract drivers. Many independent contractors took jobs at Amazon, Target, or other similar gigs, leading the RTA to “strive to meet customer needs,” he said.