Transit Program For Poor, Elderly To Get Overhaul

February 16, 1992|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff writer

County Executive Charles I. Ecker has created a three-man managementgroup to overhaul local transportation programs for elderly, disabled and low-income residents.

A report released last week by a task force of county social service groups and transit experts says the programs are inadequate and in need of overhaul.

One key finding of the report says that criteria determining who is eligible for transit are too broad. As a result, there are more eligible riders than can possibly be served with existing vehicles, drivers and other resources, it says.

The report called for the criteria to be narrowed, and for people to be re-certified periodically tomake sure they still need transportation.

It also recommended that a single authority coordinate specialized transit services. But Ecker felt creating a new job was too costly during the county's currentfiscal crisis.

Following a recommendation of the Paratransit TaskForce Report, Ecker has decided to give the Urban-Rural Transportation Alliance the second half of its $595,970 budget for fiscal year 1992, said Manus J. O'Donnell, director of the county Department of Citizen Services.

Increasing demand has forced URTA to spend more money than was budgeted, O'Donnell said.

The transportation is provided for 14 organizations and centers in the county that assist elderly, disabled and low-income residents. The agencies collectively own 89vehicles and use another 20 buses and vans operated by URTA.

"We're pleased that the county executive has taken our recommendations seriously, and despite the difficult fiscal situation, is acting to implement some of our recommendations," said Richard Kirchner, chairman of the task force.

The task force started its work in July, and finished in December. The report was not relesed until last week to give county government a chance to decide how to act on its recommendations.

Two weeks ago, Ecker appointed Carl Balser, chief of Comprehensive and Transportation Planning, Susan Rosenbaum, assistant to the director of Citizen Services, and URTA Director Jeff Barnett to the management team.

O'Donnell said the three already have met several times times and formed subcommittees to work on specific issues in the report. Ecker has ordered the group to report back to him March 31.

"It's not just another study group; it's a management group, so they may implement some things themselves," O'Donnell added.

bilityrules fetch too many riders

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