Delaware County’s senior citizens who rely on the Delaware Area Transit Agency (DATA) will get some relief from planned rate hikes.
DATA and the Council for Older Adults (COA) of Delaware County have announced 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.
Fixed route transportation will be just 50 cents for those age 60 and over.
“DATA’s fee increase is an unexpected hurdle for our seniors,” COA Executive Director Bob Horrocks said in a press release. “The council’s role in the community is to act as an advocate for every senior citizen in Delaware County. 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.”
The change in fares is the result of DATA’s being redesignated from a rural transit system to an urban transit system by federal rules. The change will cost DATA about $700,000 in federal funding, or about one-third of the transit systems’ operational budget.
In the past, DATA was able to use a portion of its federal funding to subsidize demand response trips. Now the transit system will have to charge passengers the full cost of the trip.
“We’re still trying to figure out how to bring some more funding into Delaware County for public transit,” DATA Executive Director Denny Schooley said.
The transit agency is working with local lawmakers to push state and federal legislation to to change to bring more funding to the county for transportation services.
DATA plans to expand its existing fixed routes, and is also working with several other county organizations to subsidize the cost of demand response routes.