Seniors advocate for transportation pilot project

Thu, 12/27/2018 - 6:30pm

Island taxi owners may provide low- or no-cost transportation for senior citizens on Block Island in a pilot project for the Senior Advisory Committee.

Committee member Linda Spak told the group that the two cab owners operating during the winter months are willing to work with the committee to develop and try out the project. The purpose is to enable seniors to obtain rides from their homes to medical appointments, shopping and events in town, such as programs at the Island Free Library and the Community Center.

Riders would pay the driver a nominal fee for each ride. The taxi owners would bill the town monthly for the balance of the fares due – according to the fare schedule set by town ordinance — which would be paid from a state grant for senior services obtained by the town.

The discussion at the SAC's December 18 meeting was preliminary; details of the project have yet to be worked out. Said Co-Chair Sandra Kelly, “We can't figure it out until we try it.”

What is clear, Spak told the committee, is that the taxis cannot charge a lower fare for seniors served by the pilot. Taxi fares are set by the Town Council on recommendation by the Motor Vehicles for Hire Commission. She said Vin McAloon, Vice-Chair of the MVFH Commission, invited SAC members to present the concept at the Commission's December 19 meeting.

According to Spak, McAloon suggested that the Commission could ask the Town Council to establish a special rate for senior transportation. (The base fare for one person traveling within the zone area of Old Harbor, New Harbor and the airport is $10.00. Each additional rider costs $1.00; longer trips across zone lines have higher fares.)

Whether for the pilot or an ongoing program, the SAC members said there would be restrictions. Special senior rides would not be offered at times conflicting with ferry arrivals, and would have to be scheduled in advance. The pilot project would likely involve only those taxis operating during the winter and spring, and be limited to the grant funds available.

After the SAC meeting, Kelly told The Block Island Times that the Committee will also follow up with state government contacts to learn how New Shoreham can be served by programs providing transportation for seniors elsewhere in Rhode Island.