Transit service to cut hours

Friday, October 24, 2008 6:40 AM EDT
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

Officials are planning to scale back the hours and eliminate Sunday service for the Regional Rides Program because of a budget shortfall.

The service, which offers door-to-door transportation for elderly and disabled residents in 13 area towns, is facing a deficit and will cut its hours starting Nov. 1, according to the Greater New Haven Transit District.

Although it is funded through a state grant, the program does not have enough money to last through the fiscal year with its current level of service, Transit District Executive Director Donna Carter said.

“It’s such an incredible need and we simply can’t get through the year with anything on the road if we don’t cut back the hours a little bit,” Carter said, noting that the number of riders doubled from 10,000 in 2006, the program’s first year, to 20,000 now.

At the same time, the service’s overall funding runs out at the end of the fiscal year in June, and Carter said the transit district is hoping that the state legislature will approve another grant.

“We are concerned about it for next year because we don’t know if that funding is going to be instated for next year given the budget issues that are going on with the state,” she said.

Eleven of the towns in the program will still have Dial-a-Ride service — which also serves the elderly and disabled — but two towns, Woodbridge and Guilford, are not part of the transit district and therefore cannot access Dial-a-Ride.

In addition, disabled residents who qualify for the Americans with Disabilities Act Complementary Paratransit Service can obtain door-to-door bus service within three-quarters of a mile of a fixed bus route.

Between the Regional Rides Program, Dial-a-Ride and the ADA service, the Greater New Haven Transit District offers service in all of Branford, Cheshire, East Haven, Hamden, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, West Haven and Woodbridge and parts of Ansonia, Derby, Guilford, Madison, Milford, Seymour, Shelton, Wallingford and Waterbury, according to its Web site.

At a North Branford Town Council meeting this week, Mary Bigelow, the town’s representative to the transit district, said that the cutbacks in the Regional Rides Program will adversely affect North Branford. Transit District officials are also considering changing the route for the R-Link bus that connects North Branford, North Haven and Branford due to low ridership numbers.

“We are a town without (public) transportation — this was coming to your door to deliver you where you wanted to go,” Bigelow said. She added that about 1,100 people use the service in North Branford.

Starting Nov. 1, the Regional Rides Program will operate from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Dial-a-Ride will run from 5 to 8 a.m. and from 6 p.m. to midnight daily. The cost for each service is $2.50 per ride.

“It’s been an incredibly successful program” in terms of ridership, Carter said. “We really don’t want to let it go and see these people stuck in their homes because of funding.”

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