ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – The changes to Metro Transit’s Call-A-Ride service have passengers upset. Metro Transit said they are forced to shrink their service area because of staffing shortages.

“All of the users of Call-A-Ride may have a need to go to one of the places that will now be off limits,” said Jeanette Mott Oxford, public policy and advocacy manager for Paraquad. “Your world gets smaller. It pulls in the boundaries of your life.”

Many people showed up Tuesday to express their concerns about the changes that will impact passengers who rely on the service every day.

“The first is the 250 or so people in the disability community that are going to be stranded,” said Elton Thomas. “The second thing I’m concerned about is how they’re calling this improving customer service. I don’t see how customer service is improved by cutting off a large portion of the disability community.”

Currently, Metro Transit sees around 47,000 service calls per month for Call-A-Ride, but they are forced to turn down 16,000 calls each month because of staffing shortages.

“Call-A-Ride, we’re looking for 80 or more operators. MetroBus, we’re looking for 200 operators,” said Charles Stewart, chief operating officer for Metro Transit. “MetroLink we’re missing like 20 operators. So it’s a big problem.”

He said they’ve tried everything to recruit people from job fairs and even offered a $2,000 signing bonus.

“Things got better after the holiday season. So we’re looking forward to adding people this year,” Stewart said. “If that happens, then maybe we can go back to some of our regular service, which would add service back to Call-A-Ride as well.”

Mott Oxford and Thomas said improvements to technology could help recruit more operators, and they hope to see things turn around.