Seniors would like ride discount program year-round

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 5:00pm

A senior ride discount program that was launched last winter that provided reduced-cost rides with local taxi cabs was so successful, the members of the Senior Advisory Committee hope to keep the program going year-round.

While local taxi-cab owners and drivers were sympathetic to the need, they expressed some reservations about providing the service during the summer when it is not only their busiest season, it is also the only time of year many of the cabs operate.

Nonetheless, both sides agreed that further discussion on the matter was warranted.

Senior Advisory Committee Chair Sandy Kelly started off the June 19 meeting of the Motor Vehicles For Hire to “possibly consider a reduced rate for our seniors and special needs, a change of category that might be helpful.”

During the pilot program, seniors paid a flat rate of $3, while the rest of the fare was covered by a grant made from the SAC.

“Our budget was exhausted rather quickly,” said Kelly. The SAC once again hopes to be able to underwrite the program.

“It was needed by many, many people,” said Senior Coordinator Gloria Redlich. The rides provided to seniors were often for everyday tasks such as going to the grocery store or the Medical Center. Riders would directly pay the cab driver the reduced fee at the end of the ride, and then the cab owners would bill the SAC at the end of the month for the balance of the fare.

“In the summertime this would be really tough,” said cab owner Champ Starr. “We don’t have that kind of time to make multiple stops.” Often the seniors would need to make many stops during a single trip, noted the cab drivers.

“We certainly don’t want to burden you. That’s not the idea,” said Redlich.

“I’d like to see it continue. I think most of us would like to see it continue,” said MVFH Vice Chair Vin McAloon.

There was a quick update on legislation at the State House that would ban such ride sharing services as Uber and Lyft from operating on the island. Cab owner Jim Rondinone said that the legislation had passed in the Senate, but there had been no action taken yet in the House.

“That’s where we’ve been for the last three years,” said McAloon.