Council vote marks end of Exeter Dial-A-Ride
By Paul Myers
exeter – Exeter seniors were unsettled when they heard that the City’s Dial-A-Ride service was in trouble, but after the City Council’s 4-0 vote on April 26 to hand over operations to the City of Visalia they were both disappointed and saddened. Worse yet, seniors will have to pay $2.25 per ride with Visalia, when they were paying just $1 before.
“I don’t know if you realize how important this is to us…$2.25 is an astronomical amount,” Exeter senior Ruby Clinton exclaimed angrily. “How much more are you going to keep cutting from these seniors? I want to know!”
“I can’t understand how we got into such dire straits with our Dial-A-Ride,” said regular rider Norma Glaze. “Couldn’t you maybe increase the taxes one percent and have it go to Dial-A-Ride?”
According to Exeter finance director Sheri Emerson, the Dial-A-Ride service is funded in part by local transportation funds (LTF) where they receive 50% of the previous year’s expenditures. As a result the amount the City receives in LTF dollars changes from year to year. It is then the task of the City to provide the remaining 50% which comes in part from the general fund. In terms of ridership, the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG) who works as a pass through for the federally sourced LTF, mandates that Dial-A-Ride make up 15% of the service’s cost through the fare box. As city staff noted at the council meeting, even the 15% was difficult to settle on and had to be negotiated down from 20 percent.
Exeter community services director Felix Ortiz’s report on the topic notes that in recent years the Dial-A-Ride has struggled to even come close to its fare box recovery obligation. For the last two fiscal years the City’s recovery ratio has been 8 percent and 4 percent.
“Dial-A-Ride is changing. It’s not Felix’s fault, it’s not the City’s fault, it’s not the riders fault. It’s government at work,” stated former Exeter Fire Chief Wes Grim, husband of current Exeter Dial-A-Ride driver Sharl Grim.
Wes added that he and Sharl are concerned more about the wellbeing of the senior riders, and suggested that the City put on a barbeque to introduce the seniors to the new Visalia Dial-A-Ride drivers.
“I hate to see the program go away for Exeter. It’s just that we can’t afford it…it’s no one’s fault,” stated councilmember Gordon Gerdes.
According to Ortiz’s report, seniors will need to contact Visalia Dial-A-Ride to make appointments. Community Services Employment Training (CSET) has offered to work with seniors by making pick-up appointments for them to the Senior Center for their meals. The report speculates that the City of Visalia may have a Dial-A-Ride bus in Exeter during the busy times of day.
Advance reservations are recommended. Reservations can be made up to two weeks in advance, and only Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) certified passengers can make reservations in advance. Day of reservations allowed, as space allows. Reservations are guaranteed if they are made at least the day before.
General fare to ride is $4. Seniors, disabled, military and medicare card holders are charged $2.25. First two children six years or younger ride free, each additional child is $2.25. A discounted monthly fast pass is $75. Discounted10-ride punch pass is $22.50. General 10-ride punch pass is $40.
Dial-A-Ride reservation times available are 6:30 a.m. for pick through 9 p.m. for delivery.
Recently the Cities of Lindsay and Woodlake renewed their contracts with the Tulare County Dial-A-Ride service. Both city’s transportation services run on a reimbursement basis where they pay the County for the services in and around the city. During the Tulare County Board of Supervisor’s April 25 meeting, the Board agreed that Woodlake would reimburse the County $23,801 for their service in the 2015-2016 fiscal year. The Board also agreed that Lindsay would reimburse the county $70,529 for their transportation service for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.