ST. LOUIS – Metro Transit’s Call-A-Ride is reducing its service starting April 10.

Some areas around St. Louis are no longer serviced. Metro claimed a majority of its customers will not be impacted because their organizations and destination trips are within the federally required service area.

“In finding ourselves short on staffing through the pandemic, it was causing an inordinate number of denials,” said Charles Stewart, chief operating officer at Metro Transit. “With this change to the service, we will provide better services to our paratransit riders, within this parameter.”

Call-A-Ride provides services for those with disabilities in St. Louis City and St. Louis County, as required by federal law. Customers call to reserve a ride in a wheelchair-accessible van, which provides curb-to-curb service.

Metro announced the cuts to service in February. Some 250 of the 4,000 users made 10 or more regular trip requests and would not be eligible for the service.

“It affects about 250 people directly,” said Aimee Wehmeier, president of Paraquad. “But there are people who may not live in those areas but still may travel to that area, but I think we’re going to see the effects of that beyond 250 people.”

Metro Transit sees around 47,000 service calls per month for Call-A-Ride.

They claimed that due to a shortage of drivers, they’re down about 80 drivers and turning down 16,000 requests a month. Metro Transit said they’ve tried everything to recruit, from job fairs to even offering $2,000 signing bonuses.

“This is not something that we wanted to do,” Stewart said. “We understand the needs of our paratransit community, and we want to provide the best service we can, and we find that sticking to the federal guidelines of the required service area.”

Last week, several organizations serving people with disabilities, along with community members, filed a complaint with the Federal Justice Department. This is in addition to a similar complaint filed last week with the Federal Transit Administration.

Call-A-Ride first began in 1987, and 2016 was the last service change.

“I think we can do better, and that’s what I hope,” Wehmeier said. “I hope we can get a better system.”