Unincorporated area residents could be left without transportation after June 2012 as the West Shores Dial-A-Ride service risks retirement due to a lack of revenue and ridership, but the Imperial County Transportation Commission (ICTC) directed staff to look for ways to do otherwise Thursday evening.
Desert Shores, Salton Sea Beach, Vista del Mar Estates and Salton City residents benefit from this subsidized transportation service that only in these areas is available to the general public. The state requires a minimum of 10 percent of costs in returns to continue the service, according to a report to the commission.
Ridership has decreased and costs have increased since ARC Imperial Valley took over the service in 2006, said ICTC staff Kathi Williams.
The demographics in these areas have changed, Williams said, saying people are moving out and many are dying.
“We have not been able to maintain 10 percent since approximately 2005-2006 fiscal year,” Williams said adding ARC is getting about $3,300 a year when the cost of service is about $66,000.
ICTC is getting about 5 percent of required revenue, said Williams.
Through the years the hours of operations have been reduced to keep up with the losses and continue the services, said Ramon Aguirre, ARC transportation coordinator.
The service started with five days a week, eight hours a day, Aguirre said, and now it only runs Tuesdays and Thursdays. Eight to 10 people benefit from the service per day, he said.
These residents, many of them elderly citizens on a fixed income, have no other means of transportation, said Williams, who then read to the commission letters from residents who use Dial-A-Ride.
“I do not have a ride to attend this meeting,” wrote Salton City resident Robert Bailey. He needs the service to go to the health center and go to the store, Bailey wrote, and the Dial-A-Ride is the only transportation method for many other citizens as well.
“The Dial-A-Ride is a lifeline for most seniors that use it,” wrote a resident who identified himself as Buzz. “Just remember (that) you will be a senior, if you are lucky.”
The possibility of using donations or benefactors was put forward by Commissioner and county Supervisor Michael Kelley.
“I’m sure that anybody sitting here does not want to see senior citizens without transportation,” Kelley said. He noted that the ICTC could initiate a campaign to solicit donations or ask the department of Social Services for funds.
ICTC vice chairwoman and El Centro Mayor Sedalia Sanders agreed and added that ICTC could partner with non-profits. She also called a motion to direct staff to look for ways to maintain services.
“We need to make sure we try everything,” said Commissioner and Imperial City Councilman Mark Gran, “I certainly wouldn’t want my elderly parent to be out there with no transportation at all.”
Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or firstname.lastname@example.org