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Dial-a-Ride program doesn't have resources to accomodate every ride request

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Members of the Columbia County Citizen Transit Advisory Committee listen to CC Rider administrators describe potential adjustments to the Dial-a-Ride program.Unable to meet current demand, CC Rider is searching for ways to modify its Dial-a-Ride program.

Columbia County Rider's Dial-a-Ride program provides door-to-door transportation for riders with mobility issues, including seniors and those with disabilities.

Right now, CC Rider dispatchers have to turn away 20 to 30 ride requests per day, according to Transit Administrator Todd Wood. CC Rider provides 20 hours of Dial-a-Ride each day, using multiple drivers each weekday between 7:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Demand for the program is growing daily, according to John Dreeszen, a transit coordinator.

Riders have to apply and be deemed eligible before they can start using the service.

"Todd [Wood] has a huge stack of new applications, added to the volume of people that are in the database already," Dreeszen said. "The dispatchers get as creative as they possibly can."

Dreeszen said the program is still unable to meet demand.

At the Columbia County Citizen Transit Advisory Committee meeting on April 16, he shared suggestions from dispatchers.

The main suggestion was to implement "some sort of restriction, whether it be the number of days per week that any individual could pre-schedule rides, or the number of trips per day that any individual could lock in," Dreeszen noted. Dial-a-Ride trips are measured in individual legs, meaning a rider being picked up and dropped off, rather than a round trip.

"If we limited an individual to three rides a day, that would help free up some spots," Wood said.

Some Dial-a-Ride users schedule rides far in advance for recurring commitments like medical appointments. But requests made more than a few weeks in advance can't be guaranteed, because higher-priority cases may come up.

"We're finding it more and difficult to guarantee that, because we're having to turn away other riders," said Dreeszen.

CC Rider prioritizes medical needs above the "life needs" category, but "the definition of that becomes kind of subjective," Dreeszen noted. Staff members

are trying to balance the need for medical rides and nonmedical rides.

"Social activities are important," Dreeszen said. "In some cases, some of these people only get out of the house one day a week, and it's because they're able to utilize our service. It's heartbreaking to not be able to fill that ride."

"We're not asking for an easy thing," Wood said.

No decisions have been made yet, and staff members are still gathering input.

A proposed ballot measure, which could appear on the November ballot, would provide stable funding for CC Rider through property taxes. If that measure passes, increasing Dial-a-Ride services is a priority.

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