The cost of operating the city’s Dial-A-Ride program has jumped 4.7% for 1985-86. The $39,193 increase has pushed this year’s operating budget for the bus system to a record $224,830, said Tom Robinson, the city’s community revitalization manager.
Rising insurance costs and expanded services are the primary factors in the cost increase. Since 1983, the number of riders using the 12-year-old bus service has steadily increased. In July, it hit the highest level for that month in five years. The transit system averaged 347 riders per day in July. By contrast, it averaged 265 per day in April.
Two years ago, ridership had fallen from its 1980-81 peak of 87,500 passengers to 75,000 riders. But last year ridership started climbing, eventually reaching 82,500.
Dial-A-Ride customers call a special number to request a ride and a bus is then dispatched to pick them up.
The City Council recently agreed to expand service hours, starting half an hour earlier each morning at 6:30 a.m. Council members are also considering adding Sunday service to the six-day-a-week system and possibly extending runs to medical facilities in neighboring cities.
Since April, Robinson said, the bus system has reduced from 27 to 14 minutes the average time it takes to pick up and deliver passengers. That is well below the city’s goal of 30 minutes per call. Despite the recent ridership surge on the bus system, which has carried 2.2 million passengers since it started, Robinson said there are no plans to convert Dial-A-Ride into a fixed-route system, similar to one in Whittier.
Santa Ana-based Community Transit Services operates the city-owned buses.