Transit commissioners weigh proposals to change paratransit services

SEQUIM — Clallam Transit System commissioners say they’ll move slowly on recommendations to cut paratransit services for disabled people to keep the system small and manageable.

Terry Weed, Clallam Transit general manager, said he will hold hearings late this summer to solicit public comment before adopting any of the suggestions in the 2006 budget in the fall.

Commissioners on Monday accepted the report from San Francisco-based Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates that updates the system’s Americans with Disabilities Act Complementary Paratransit Plan.

Paratransit “can remain a small, manageable service for the foreseeable future,” the report said, at a time when some state transit agencies are sacrificing regularly scheduled routes for the sake of paratransit.

Operating costs continue to rise, and fare revenues may drop, the consultant said, especially if paratransit loses Medicaid support.

In addition, paratransit runs to rural areas — beyond regions required by the Americans with Disabilities Act — “tend to be long and tie up buses that could be more productively service other trips.”

More service needed

Meanwhile, the aging Clallam County population will demand more service.

In 2000, 21 percent of Clallam County residents were 65 or older. That portion will climb to 28 percent by 2025.

Topping the Nelson/Nygaard recommendations — which were made with the concurrence of a Clallam Transit commissioners’ committee — is a two-tired service structure.

Zone A would include urban areas. Zone B would include rural regions.

Clients on long-distance runs in Zone B would be encouraged to use regular transit routes. People whose disabilities preclude riding an ordinary bus could get “lifeline service” from paratransit at reduced frequency.

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