Transit ridership sets record in May

June 19, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

Carroll Transit System, the county's nonprofit transportation service, is driving more residents where they need to go. Ridership hit an all-time high last month, Executive Director James O. Mathis said.

In May, Carroll Transit provided 7,150 rides, he said. The service usually provides 4,000 to 5,000 rides per month. The previous high was in October 1993, when the service provided 6,832 rides, he said.

Senior citizens continue to be the primary passengers. In May, Carroll Transit provided rides for 3,146 seniors, Mr. Mathis said. In April, the number was 1,898. The average senior citizen ridership in a one-month period is 1,600, he said.

Mr. Mathis, who took over as executive director from Linda Boyer in February, said last week he wasn't sure why ridership has increased lately. He said he thinks senior citizens and other residents were ready to get out of their homes this spring after a long winter.

Marjorie Bachmann, a planner for the Carroll Bureau of Aging, said many seniors depend on Carroll Transit.

"I know it means life and death to a lot of these people. Many of them are extremely isolated," Ms. Bachmann said. "There are not the support systems from families there used to be."

Carroll Transit gains riders because the senior citizen population continues to grow and because satisfied riders tell their friends about the service, she said. Also, the county does not have many cab companies, she said.

Leila MacGeorge, 76, lives in Timber Ridge Apartments in Westminster and has been riding Carroll Transit for 10 years. She said she usually rides once a week.

"It's the only transportation I have," she said.

Carroll Transit employs 25 part-time drivers who work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, Mr. Mathis said. There is no weekend or evening service.

Vehicles range from a 1983 Ford Escort to a 21-passenger bus, he said.

The system requires riders to call 24 hours ahead to be picked up at their doors. The fare is $2 per zone.

Carroll Transit also runs a shuttle for shoppers in Westminster that stops at many city shopping centers. The fare is $1 each way.

To continue to serve riders, Carroll Transit is adding to its 19-vehicle fleet, Mr. Mathis said.

The system will add three vehicles to its fleet soon and might get a fourth if it receives a state grant to buy a small bus, he said.

Within the next two months, the system will add two vans that TC can carry eight people each, plus two passengers in wheelchairs. The vans are worth about $33,000 each, Mr. Mathis said.

Carroll Transit received the vehicles through a federal grant aimed at rural transportation systems, he said.

Next year, the system will receive another van of the same size because it was awarded a federal grant aimed at private, nonprofit systems, Mr. Mathis said.

Carroll Transit also has applied for a $72,000 grant through the Maryland Mass Transit Administration to buy a 21-seat small bus but has not heard whether it will receive the grant, he said. If it does, the van probably will be used in South Carroll.

"It's very challenging to make sure people are served when they want it and how they want it," Mr. Mathis said.

The system also is expanding its service to Medicaid clients through the Carroll County Health Department. Since February, Carroll Transit has had a contract to transport Medicaid clients to doctor's appointments, Deputy Health Officer Larry Leitch said.

Beginning July 1, Carroll Transit will have contracts to transport Medicaid clients in wheelchairs and those who need ambulances, Mr. Leitch said.

The contracts are worth a total of $180,000, he said.

Mr. Mathis said Carroll Transit will contract with two private ambulance services to transport clients who need ambulances.

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