URTA ends transportation service

For 27 years, vans carried poor county residents as number of its riders fell

July 01, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

After 27 years of providing rides for Howard County's poor, the Urban Rural Transportation Alliance closed yesterday - in some ways a victim of its own success.

Mary Jo Barranco, president and board chairwoman, said 24 employees lost their jobs, but people who relied on URTA won't be stranded.

Howard Transit's medical para-transit service and agencies like the Association of Retarded Citizens should pick up the slack, she said.

"We're working to ensure that clients get the care they need," said Susan Rosenbaum, director of the county Department of Citizen Services.

Ron Skotz, deputy transit administrator for Corridor Transportation, the company that operates Howard Transit, said he has had "a call here and there" but no flood of inquiries from URTA clients.

"We were trying to get the word around," Skotz said.

People registered for state Medicaid transportation should call All American Ambulance at 1-800-577-1050, Barranco said.

The decision to close URTA was made three months ago.

"We kinda got squeezed out," Barranco said, describing the disappearance of the service gap that URTA was created to fill.

When part of the county service went out to bid several years ago and Howard Transit won, URTA's business was cut in half, she said. As URTA was forced to increase its prices, other private agencies decided they could provide transportation for less. Finally, there wasn't enough business to justify URTA continuing, Barranco said.

Barranco, an URTA board member for 13 years, said 12 of the organization's 15 passenger vans will be sold at auction. The other three are co-owned with the state. She will be liquidating property through this month, she said.

The saddest part about closing, Barranco said, is losing the 12 part-time and 12 full-time employees.

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