Beginning Monday, Carroll Transit System will offer rides to the public for fares of $2 to $10.
The private, non-profit transportationcompany now provides van service for seniors and the disabled through the county Department of Aging.
Starting Monday, people of any age can call 876-RIDE to schedule a trip at least 24 hours in advance, said Charles E. "Bud" Nason, executive director of the transportation company. He said the service iscalled "demand-response," because it is based on call-ahead reservations rather than fixed routes.
Nason said the elderly and disabled who qualify for lower rates through the Department of Aging can continue to purchase their tickets at a discount from senior centers andcan present them instead of cash to the drivers.
About 85 percentof Carroll Transit's service is to elderly and handicapped people, for which the Department of Aging pays the company $1.52 a mile. The department collects some money for tickets and covers the rest of the cost through a subsidy from county, federal and state grants.
But the subsidy won't cover the public's need for transportation and doesn't even cover enough of what elderly and handicapped people want, Nason said. Demand-response service for them is limited to one ride perperson, per week, Nason said.
"The reason we're doing this is thesubsidy is not comparable to the need," said Nason, who received approval this month for the change from the state Public Service Commission.
Previously, anyone who wasn't handicapped or elderly could not ride the demand-response service unless they could conform to an already-scheduled trip for seniors or the disabled.
Nason said several elderly and disabled people have told him they would be willing topay extra for more rides if they were available. Also, younger adults have wanted the service for such things as rides to work and to Carroll Community College, he said.
"The fact is, a growing number ofpeople in the county are transportation-dependent," Nason said. "They can't just say, 'Harry, can you take me to the store?' "
Anotherchange will be in the Shopper's Shuttle. The service already is available to the public, but starting Monday riders may pay their $1 fares directly to the driver, Nason said, instead of purchasing booklets of tickets from the senior centers.
However, seniors may still purchase their shuttle tickets from the senior centers, he said.
TheShopper's Shuttle runs three times a day, only in Westminster. It makes loops from several housing developments to major shopping centers.
The new demand-response service will be paid for totally throughthe fares from users, Nason said. The same 14 vans and one mini-busused for senior service will also pick up the public riders, he said.
He said his plans are not to increase the fleet, but to replace some of the vans with larger mini-buses that hold more riders.
Theone-way fares will be $2 for two miles or less; $4 for two to five miles; $6 for five to 10 miles; and $10 for more than 10 miles. Carroll Transit also will provide some out-of-county service for $1.50 a mile, he said. Service for those disabled or over 65 still can be obtained through the Department of Aging for $1 to $3, depending on the distance.
Jolene Sullivan, director of the Department of Aging, saidshe was not familiar enough with the changes to comment on how they might affect her office.
However, she said she was concerned that seniors might get confused, as they have in the past, about where to buy their tickets.