DANVILLE — In the last 10 years, para-transit ridership in Danville has more than tripled, prompting Danville Mass Transit officials to propose fare increases for those who qualify for the specialized transportation that's mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Danville Mass Transit must provide para-transit services in addition to its fixed bus routes in the city and is proposing increasing the cost per ride from $1.60 to $2.00, which would increase the price of a five-ride ticket from $8 to $10. Para-transit rides do not follow fixed routes like regular buses, but are destination-to-destination, meaning smaller, light-duty buses pick up riders at predetermined times and locations and transport them to their destinations.
In the last 10 years, the number of para-transit rides per year in Danville and Tilton has more than tripled from 3,379 in fiscal year 2001-02 to 11,347 in fiscal year 2011-12.
Director of Public Transportation John Metzinger said the increase in ridership numbers could stem from the fact that Vermilion County has one of the highest percentages of persons with disabilities in the state, and those who qualify for the service may be using it more often.
Amy Marchant, chief executive officer with CRIS, said she supports the proposed increase in fares. With the number of people requesting the service increasing, she said, DMT has to find a way to stay within its budget. She said ridership has steadily increased every year, but DMT's funding does not.
"We have an extraordinarily high number of people who are disabled in this community compared to other communities, so it's difficult to keep up with an ordinary amount of funding," Marchant said.
Although DMT's regular fixed route buses are fully accessible, it must still provide para-transit services for disabled riders who can demonstrate that their disability makes it difficult for them to get to and from a bus stop unaided or have cognitive issues that prevent them navigating the fixed route bus system.
DMT sought bids last year for para-transit services and won an affordable rate from the low bidder, CRIS Rural Mass Transit district, according to Metzinger. The two entities negotiated an extension of that contract that included a 3 percent increase in what DMT pays CRIS — $11.21 for every para-transit trip taken in Danville and Tilton.
"That is still a very good price for the city of Danville. DMT could not operate that service ourselves for the same cost, because CRIS already has the right style of buses and has the staff to handle the scheduling and has the software — things we would have to bring in-house," he said.
Metzinger said in his former place of employment in Indiana, the mass transit system was paying $30 per trip. But, Metzinger said, even with an affordable rate, ridership is increasing, which bumps up the overall cost of the service, so DMT must increase revenue to offset that.
Metzinger said the change does put a greater cost burden on the riders, but that is fair and good stewardship of the public resources. He said ADA allows mass transit providers to charge up to twice the fixed-bus rate, which is $1, for the para-transit rate. So it's allowable under ADA for Danville Mass Transit to bump up the charge to $2 per trip.
DMT's fare proposal also includes plans to offer para-transit riders free transportation on DMT's regular fixed route buses as an incentive for them to use those buses when possible.
The next step is to present the proposals during public hearings to collect feedback from riders and the community. The hearings are scheduled at the following times:
— 5-6 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 21), lower level community room at the Robert E. Jones Municipal building, 17 W. Main St., Danville.
— 10-11 a.m. Friday, lower level community room at the municipal building.
— 8-9 a.m. March 1 at CRIS Healthy Aging Center, 309 N. Franklin St., Danville
Metzinger may take the proposal to the city council for consideration in March, and the fare changes could start as early as May.
To make a comment about the proposal contact DMT at http://www.ridedmt.org/comments.html .
Para-transit ridership in Danville
The following shows the total number of rides provided in each fiscal year (July 1 to June 30) for Danville Mass Transit's para-transit service, which is destination-to-destination transportation for people with disabilities, mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. DMT contracts with CRIS Senior Services to provide para-transit services. DMT is proposing a fare increase for para-transit riders.
Source: Danville Mass Transit