May 20, 2009 > Changes Proposed to Newark's Paratransit Program
Changes Proposed to Newark's Paratransit Program
By Meenu Gupta
The economic downturn means the City of Newark's Paratransit Program faces changes due to reduced funding. The program provides non-mandated, special transportation for Newark residents. The City contracts with Satellite Housing Inc. to provide door-to-door, wheelchair-accessible service for seniors, ages 65 and older, and people with disabilities, ages 18 and older.
The Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (ACTIA) administers distribution of the Measure B half-cent transportation sales tax which provides funding to the city's Paratransit Program. For 2009-10, ACTIA forecasts approximately $136,336 in funding, $22,070 less than in 2007-08. Consequently, City Staff has proposed some changes for the coming fiscal year. Senior Center Supervisor Margrith Reichmuth reported to the Newark city council meeting on May 14.
The main changes are to eliminate Saturday service, currently offered 5 hours weekly. Saturdays have the least number of requested rides, an average of just four riders. Wednesdays and Fridays are the busiest days of the week, so two buses will be operational on these days, providing a total of 13 hours' service. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays one bus will provide 8 hours of service. So, paratransit service will be reduced from 60 hours to 50 hours weekly.
"These reduced service hours will mean less availability to the registered riders we currently have," said Reichmuth.
Another proposal reduces the transportation coordinator's weekly hours from 35 hours to 27.5 hours. "This person answers the phone, schedules the ride, maintains statistics, connects with the drivers if there are changes like cancellations," said Reichmuth. Fewer hours would mean less administrative oversight for the program and less customer service though, as in the past, riders will have the ability to leave voice mail messages for the coordinator. Effective July 1, staff has also proposed a fare increase of 25 cents for each one-way trip. Within Newark, trips will increase from $1.25 to $1.50 and out-of-Newark trips will increase from $2.25 to $2.50. "We'll notify riders in early June of the changes, if the plan is approved, and offer other transportation resources such as the taxi voucher program and East Bay Paratransit services." added Reichmuth. "Based on mileage, East Bay Paratransit charges $3 for 0-8 miles, $4 for 8-12 miles, $5 for 12-20 miles and $6 for 20 miles or more," Reichmuth informed the council.
The City also utilizes Measure B funding to subsidize Life Eldercare, Inc's Meals-on-Wheels service which provides over 10,000 home-delivered meals annually to Newark residents. "As part of the budget, we propose to continue the $7,000 subsidy to the non-profit. We feel this is a great subsidy to help them with the Meals-on-Wheels program's transportation costs," said Reichmuth.
"During the past year we received $4,000 from Fremont Bank Foundation and that's helping us sustain paratransit services, so I'm grateful to them for that donation," she said. In the past, Satellite Housing has contributed towards the program. Next fiscal year, they will discontinue that practice. "I appreciate and am grateful for Satellite Housing's financial support over the last 18 years or more," added Reichmuth. Moreover, East Bay Paratransit, the county-wide mandated paratransit service provider, has requested a share of Newark's Measure B funding."
"It's unfortunate that Satellite Housing cannot fund this year but they did for so many years, for which we're grateful. You've looked at this from every angle; it's a thorough report and this is the best we can do," agreed Mayor Smith. The council unanimously approved Newark Paratransit's annual submittal for Measure B funding. Alberto Huezo was absent.
Fremont - 510 574 2053
Hayward - 510 895 9911 ext 4
Newark - 510 791 7879
Subsidized taxi Service - 510 578 4844
Union City - 510 476 1500
East Bay Paratransit
Toll free: 1-800-555-8085
Main number: 510 287 5000
VIP Rides Program - 510 574 2092