The Council for Older Adults (COA) has stepped in to lend a hand to county senior citizens facing higher transportation costs because of a federal decision.
The Delaware Area Transit Agency (DATA) was recently redesignated from a rural transit system to an urban transit system, a move that will cost DATA about $700,000 in federal funding. That’s about one-third of the transit system’s operational budget.
Those whos stand to lose most from this change have been older residents who have relied on DATA for economical transportation.
DATA said that starting Jan. 1, customers who utilize DATA’s demand response service will find their fares increasing as much as five-fold in some cases when new rates take effect.
DATA and COA have struck a deal that will partially subsidize fares of residents age 60 and over.
Local seniors who utilize DATA’s demand response routes – the cost of which are set to increase by as much as 500 percent in some cases in 2014 – will receive up to $50 per month to help cover the price increase. A $4 fee co-payment per trip will be required.
COA Executive Director Bob Horrocks correctly called the announced rate hike “unexpected hurdle for our seniors. … We don’t have the funding to fill the entire gap left by the fee increases, but the Bus Bucks program is the first step towards what we hope will be a larger, community-wide response.”
DATA, which also clearly understands the problem, decided not to change the cost of fixed routes, which are $1. Users over 65 and under 18 are charged a fare of 50 cents. For those ages 60 to 64, the COA program will also lower the fixed route cost to 50 cents.
DATA also plans to expand its existing fixed routes. It is working with several other county organizations to subsidize the cost of demand response routes, and working with local lawmakers to push state and federal legislation to to change to bring more funding to the county for transportation services.
The federal rule switching Delaware County to an “urban” designation is misguided, at best, considering the county remains largely rural.
DATA and COA, understand this and are to be commended for their efforts to protect the interests of the county’s older residents, at a time when the federal government chose not to.