The Los Angeles City Council Friday provided $550,000 to almost triple the service provided by Valtrans, a popular dial-a-ride program for the elderly and handicapped in the San Fernando Valley.
The unanimous vote, adding those funds to the nearly $1 million already appropriated for the program, came in response to complaints from the elderly and handicapped that they have been unable to obtain rides because of the great demand for the service.
The council also provided funds to expand similar programs in other parts of Los Angeles.
The money, drawn from the Proposition A half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 1980, will finance expansion of the fleet of vans serving the Valley, from 15 to 40.
The money appropriated Friday will finance the extra vans through Sept. 30, when additional money will be required to maintain the added service.
According to a report presented to the council by its Traffic and Transportation Committee, which recommended the expenditure, 11,000 Valley residents are signed up for the program. "But only a small percentage are able to use the system," the report said, because demand has exceeded the vehicles available.
The report said council offices in the Valley had been "inundated with complaints" from constituents unable to use the service.
Lynn Harper, a city transportation planner who coordinates the program, said that some elderly and handicapped residents had complained to her that they called a busy Valtrans phone number for an hour to reserve a ride, then, after finally getting an answer, found all rides taken.
She said officials recommend that reservations for a ride be made a week in advance, and said that the program usually is booked up within three hours after the office opens for rides a week ahead.
Under the service, begun in May, 1983, the elderly and handicapped can obtain door-to-door rides to anywhere in the Valley for 50 cents. Although the program is available to anyone with a physical disability or anyone 65 or older, officials prefer it be used by those unable to use public transportation.
Although rides are provided for any purpose, priority is given to trips to the doctor, grocery and senior-citizen nutrition programs.