Update: A GLSS spokesman now admits stranding the rider was the non-profit’s fault, and not the fault of an MBTA contractor.
LYNN — Donald Parker never rode a Greater Lynn Senior Services (GLSS) van before — and after his recent experience, he won’t ever again.
The saga started three weeks ago when the 77-year-old retiree contacted the nonprofit that delivers more than 600,000 rides annually for seniors and the disabled on the North Shore.
“It was a very simple trip, to take me from my home on Tilton Place to my doctor’s office at 990 Humphrey St. in Swampscott,” he said. “Instead, the van pulled up to 990 Paradise Road.”
When Parker told the driver of the error, the operator called a dispatcher who confirmed Paradise Road was the “correct”` address.
“I told the driver I know where my doctor’s office is and this isn’t it, but he told me not to cause any problems and get out of the van, so I did,” he said.
As a result, Parker walked one mile to the office and was 45 minutes late for his appointment, not to mention how he ached.
“I’ve had both knees replaced and I walk with a cane, so it was difficult and painful,” he said.
Parker contacted Paul Crowley, GLSS’ executive director, who promised to look into it. A week later when Parker hadn’t heard back, he called Crowley a second time.
“He said ‘What do you want from me?’ I told him an apology would be a good start,” he said. “He told me if I wanted an apology to write a letter to him, which I did, and still nothing.”
Crowley did not return calls seeking comment.
Steven Epps, transportation director at GLSS, said he has apologized to Parker for the mixup.
“We are quite upset about what happened,” he said. “The ride was booked wrong and we are very sorry. It disturbed me that we couldn’t have served him better.”
He said while GLSS provides the driver and the van, the dispatch service is done by another company, Global Contact Services (GCS). Since they were hired by the MBTA last year, he said, complaints have been rising.
“Once GCS took over the scheduling, the reservations and the dispatch, my responsibility is to put the driver in the seat and the vehicle on the road,” he said. “GCS does the rest.”
Pamela Edwards, organizing director for the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, a grassroots organization whose mission is to empower elders, said this is not the first complaint they’ve heard about GLSS’ van service.
“We have been working diligently with the MBTA to address these issues,” she said. “Our members have testified before the T’s board about hundreds of incidents like this.”
Edwards said the T hired GCS which came in with a low bid to do the dispatch work. They fired all the employees who had worked for as many as 20 years and earned up to $17 an hour with benefits. The new dispatchers make $11 an hour without benefits, she said.
CommonWealth Magazine reported that at a recent MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board meeting, T General Manager Luis Ramirez said they are continuing to work with GCS to improve service.
GCS was hired in 2016 and its goal was to consolidate three call centers into one, netting $12 million in annual savings. While two call centers have merged, a third has been postponed because of the service issues.
The magazine reported the T plans to end the contract with GCS, but has to tread carefully because the transit authority can’t easily fire them and hire a replacement firm.
GCS did not return a call seeking comment.