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Transit Tax Most Helpful to Disabled and Elderly

April 21, 1985|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

If you live in Arcadia, you can telephone Arcadia Dial-a-Ride and a van will come to your door in a few minutes to take you anywhere in the city for 50 cents.

If you live in Duarte, you can catch a free bus that circulates through every neighborhood in the city every hour.

If you live in La Verne and are 55 or older, you can ride Southern California Rapid Transit District buses free; the city will shoulder the cost of monthly passes.

All of these programs are financed by Proposition A, the half-cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 1980. The measure gives San Gabriel Valley cities more than $9 million a year for public transportation, and they are spending the money in a variety of ways. Some cities are subsidizing taxi fares. Others are running dial-a-ride vans or fixed-route buses. And some are putting most of their money into bus stop shelters and park-and-ride lots for the RTD.

City officials say the strongest demand for public transit has come from the elderly and handicapped. Several cities had dial-a-ride programs for senior citizens and the disabled before Proposition A was passed, but the new money has brought expanded service.

Fares Range to 50 Cents

Alhambra, Azusa, Baldwin Park, Covina, El Monte, Glendora, La Verne, Monterey Park, Pasadena, Pomona, Rosemead, San Dimas, San Gabriel, South El Monte, South Pasadena, Temple City and West Covina all offer dial-a-ride to the elderly and handicapped at fares ranging from nothing to 50 cents. A few cities operate their own systems, but most contract with cab companies or minibus operators. The county offers the same sort of service in many unincorporated areas and La Puente will start a dial-a-ride for the elderly and handicapped next month.

Arcadia, Claremont and Monrovia offer dial-a-ride service to everyone.

The program costs Arcadia $1 million a year, drawing on state and federal transit subsidies as well as Proposition A funds. Steven Bocian, assistant to the city manager, said 250,000 trips are made in a year and the passengers represent a cross section of the city's residents.

Vans pick up passengers at their door, usually within half an hour of being called, and will take them anywhere in the city limits. In a typical hour during one recent weekday afternoon, the passengers included an elderly woman going home from shopping, an elderly man going home from lunch, a man in his 30s going to get his car out of a repair shop, six high school students and a 29-year-old architectural draftsman returning from a job-hunting trip. The draftsman, like all the others, said he did not have access to a car or he would have used it.

Bus driver Pamela Morgan said some riders leave cars at home because it is easier to take the dial-a-ride, but most passengers do not have that option.

Encouraging people to leave their cars home is one goal of Pasadena's Shopper Shuttle. The city uses Proposition A funds to pay the RTD to run buses along Colorado Boulevard and South Lake Avenue every 10 minutes from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

'Trapped' Without Cars

Dave Barnhart, Pasadena traffic and transportation engineer, said one reason people often give for not taking the bus or car-pooling to work is that they "feel trapped" during the day when they can't use their car to go to lunch or run errands. The Shopper Shuttle, he said, gives downtown Pasadena workers access to restaurants and shops at midday without using their cars.

The shuttle, which began in November, is not yet a success, however. It is averaging 180 riders a day, which Barnhart said is half the ridership needed to make the service worthwhile. The city has contracted for the shuttle to continue on a trial basis until Aug. 3.

City Director Rick Cole has suggested using Proposition A money to build and run a trolley line along Colorado Boulevard and South Lake Avenue. Developer John Wilson is seeking city approval to build a trolley line around the Pasadena Marketplace project in Old Town, but he has not asked for any subsidy from Proposition A funds.

Cole said he believes that a trolley line could be enough of a tourist attraction to justify the cost, although what it would cost to build and run the line is not yet clear.

SH Matter of Guesswork

Duarte City Manager Ken Caresio said figuring out what will work in local transportation is sometimes a matter of guesswork. He said Duarte decided to run a shuttle bus through the city partly because it is cheaper than dial-a-ride. Also, Caresio said, he had heard that dial-a-ride systems can get flooded with requests during rush hours, resulting in angry and frustrated passengers.

Caresio said the city decided to take a chance on shuttle service even though "we didn't know whether anybody would use it. The public wasn't clamoring for it."

But ridership has been so high (up to 400 passengers a day) that Duarte is going to trade its 22-passenger bus for one that seats 40.

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