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Discounted Uber fares are coming this summer for Laguna Beach seniors

Laguna Beach is not afraid to try something new when it comes to transportation.

The city experimented last year with a program in which trolleys moved through some of Laguna’s neighborhoods, expanding their reach from traditional routes along South Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road.

On Tuesday, the City Council unanimously agreed on rules for a pilot program involving seniors and Uber.

For two months beginning in mid-June, Laguna Beach seniors can schedule free rides — up to 40 a month on the ride-sharing app, according to a city staff report.

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For Uber, the partnership is the first-of-its kind related to senior transportation, Jarryd Davis, Uber’s regulatory transit partnership manager for Southern California, told the council.

Laguna is budgeting $90,000 for a program city staff members say complements other transportation options, including rides through the nonprofit Sally’s Fund.

The council approved the trial program in March, asking staff to return with guidelines.

Council members tweaked some of the eligibility rules the city had proposed, such as being 55 years or older and unable to drive a car.

“Does someone need to demonstrate this to staff?” Councilman Bob Whalen asked, eliciting chuckles from the audience.

Whalen suggested someone who is 55 and in need of a ride to a medical appointment should be able to get the discount, regardless of their ability to drive.

Councilman Steve Dicterow recommended that residents with a disability also be eligible for reduced fares, no matter their ages.

Under the policy, seniors would be reimbursed half the cost of a ride up to $5 within Laguna Beach and up to $8 outside of the city, the staff report said. These rates would become effective after two months.

Discounted prices would not affect a driver’s pay rate. Laguna would subsidize the discount, City Manager John Pietig said.

Drivers will provide rides to medical appointments up to 15 miles outside city limits.

City officials said the service is not meant to replace Sally’s Fund, which offers free rides to passengers at least 60 years old.

About half the rides per month take seniors to the Susi Q in a van. Door-to-door service and certain additional assistance for seniors in need have been available as well.

Uber rides will be relegated to Uber X vehicles, which allow up to three passengers. One fare will be charged per ride, regardless of the number of occupants.

Rides will be offered from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The city will hold two outreach meetings to educate the public: 1 to 2 p.m. May 18 and 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. June 7. Both meetings will be held at the Laguna Beach Community & Susi Q Center at 380 Third St.

Residents need to sign up for an Uber account, fill out an application and bring it to the Susi Q so the the city can verify eligibility.

The city will assist residents who need help navigating the Uber app or scheduling rides by other means.

Applications will be available at the Susi Q, at City Hall at 505 Forest Ave. and online.

The city will gather data for a four-month period and report back to the council.

bryce.alderton@latimes.com

Twitter: @AldertonBryce


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