Sources: T to part ways with paratransit contractor

Sources: T to part ways with paratransit contractor

Consolidated call center, service problems remain concerns

THE MBTA IS STILL NOT SATISFIED with the performance of the private company overseeing its paratransit dispatch service, and sources say the authority is trying to figure out a way to sever ties and hire a new vendor.

Global Contact Services was hired in 2016 to operate a centralized call and control center for the MBTA’s paratransit service, which provides rides to people with disabilities. The T had been operating three call centers and wanted to consolidate them into one to provide efficiencies and save an estimated $12 million annually.

Two of the call centers have been merged. Consolidation of the third was supposed to happen July 1, but was postponed until Oct. 1 and then again until at least Nov. 1 because of persistent service quality issues. As of this week, the third call center still has not been consolidated. At one point, the T hired a consulting firm to evaluate Global’s operations and the firm’s report gave Global poor marks in just about every category.

Sources say the T has decided to move on, but has to tread carefully because the transit authority can’t just fire Global and hire a replacement firm. The sources say the T needs Global and the existing operator of the third call center to remain in place serving customers while a new company is hired and brought up to speed.

MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez indicated after Monday’s meeting of the Fiscal and Management Control Board that nothing has changed with Global. “Everything’s the same,” he said. “We continue to work with the contractor to make sure we’re improving services, and we continue to make sure that our ridership is being given the best service possible.”

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About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

A T spokesman issued an almost identical statement. Officials at Global could not be reached for comment.

The paratransit consolidation, and the savings it was expected to generate, played a minor role in the T’s budget deliberations for the current year. T officials in recent years have tried to run the authority using just the money they receive from the state sales tax and revenues they generate on their own from advertising and parking. They have tried to use a $187 million annual state budget appropriation just for longer-term capital investments. If the expected savings from the paratransit consolidation fail to materialize ($1 million forecast for this year), there will be less money for capital investments.