The University of Minnesota’s Paratransit Services offers rides to any student, staff or faculty member who may have challenges getting around on campus. Three vans make up the entire fleet, and they go from 7 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, between all three campus. While some riders wonder why more people who could benefit don’t use the service, already increasing demands could cause the delicate system of schedules and reservations to become strained. Read more about Paratransit Services here.
All of the paratransit vans are equipped with accessible features such as an automatic ramp to accommodate wheelchairs, scooters, crutches and other mobility aids.
Paratransit driver Dane Sorenson crouches in the spacious backseat of the van to start getting the necessary security straps for scooters, wheelchairs and the like set up. Whether the equipment has brakes to lock it in place, Sorenson makes sure everything is fastened to avoid shifting while the van is in motion.
After his first client of the day did not show up, Sorenson picks up another passenger, Katherine Laaksonen near TCF Bank Stadium at 7:45 a.m. All passengers get an option to ride in the front or the back, and Laaksonen chooses shotgun.
Sorenson hooks Laaksonen’s scooter to the floor straps in the backseat. Excluding longer treks to St. Paul campus, each Paratransit ride has only a 15 minute block including pickup and drop off, so Sorenson must move efficiently.
Sorenson helps Laaksonen out of the front seat of the car at her destination near Northrop Auditorium and they say goodbye, knowing full well they’ll see each other tomorrow when he will drive her to campus once again.
After another no-show, Sorenson looks over his clipboard and awaits his next passenger in a parking lot. This many no-shows are rare, he says, and it’s more than likely that some potential riders were turned away because of the fully-reserved vans. Riders are only allowed three no-shows before losing their ridership privileges, a policy put in place in order to accommodate the most possible passengers. Despite the no-shows, by 9 a.m., Sorenson has driven four people, and his eight-hour shift is just starting.