[tabi] from today's Democrat: article on Dial-a-Ride

  • From: "Allison and Chip Orange" <acorange@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 8 Jun 2009 08:19:36 -0400

June 8, 2009
Some Dial-A-Ride users left waiting
With a funding decrease, service has had to prioritize rides
By Doug Blackburn
Mycell Armington leads a busy life.
She works at the Social Security Administration as a contact representative,
a job
she's held for the past 31 years. She's a worship leader in her church, and
in her
spare time she visits correctional facilities to preach to inmates.
But Armington is finding Leon County considerably more difficult to navigate
in the
past two months.
Armington, who is legally blind, lives just north of the city limits. She
on Dial-A-Ride's community transportation program for almost all of her
But due to a decrease in state funding - compounded by an increase in
ridership -
Dial-A-Ride has been forced for the first time to institute a priority
system for
providing rides. Medical trips are the No. 1 priority, followed by
and grocery shopping.
"It's gotten much worse," Armington said. "It's totally bumped people off of
going to church. It's considered a social activity, instead of spiritual or
"It's taken away my freedoms," she added. "It's a major issue."
Armington isn't the only one who's struggling to cope with the new priority
at Dial-A-Ride, which she has taken to calling "Dial-A-Wait." The priority
went into effect at the end of March.
Dorothy Martin, who lives just east of the city limits, is frustrated that
she can
no longer get rides for classes at the Senior Center.
"I can't even go to the grocery store when I want to now," Martin said. "I
have a life now that they've cut the service back so much. I can't go
anywhere anymore."
Ronald Garrison, executive director at StarMetro, said he empathizes with
who consider the new priority system an inconvenience. Almost all
recreational trips
have been eliminated, he said, because of the decrease in funding from the
for the Transportation Disadvantaged (CTD), the state agency housed within
the Department
of Transportation.
"People need to be talking to their legislators to look at different ways to
the funding," Garrison said.
Leon County's CTD funding for the current fiscal year was decreased by about
from $446,373 to $427,768, according to Donna Peacock, StarMetro's
of paratransit operations.
Meanwhile, ridership is up significantly. For the first six months of the
year, which started Oct. 1, there were 109,836 riders, compared to 96,329
the previous
year, Peacock said. This includes the bus-pass program.
"We've run this (paratransit) program five years, and never had to put a
policy in place," Peacock said. "It's sort of come to a head now.
"Some of that may be due to the economy and more folks needing
transportation. I
don't know what else to do. If there's no money, there's no money."
Bobby Jerningan, executive director of CDT, the state agency, acknowledges
that the
"system is spread a little thin right now."
"We've had to dial back on our expenditures for next year," Jernigan said.
"It is
a hardship on those individuals who have grown to depend on this
transportation service.
It's a major deal."
It's certainly a major deal for Armington, Martin and others. Armington said
can't afford to pay $35 to $40 for a cab, when Dial-A-Ride costs her $2.50.
"I lead a very active and normal life and I intend to do so for the rest of
my life,"
Armington said. "But this has made it really difficult.
"I'm also afraid of speaking out, because I may be a candidate for

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