SAC seeking transportation support

Sun, 12/08/2019 - 11:45am

Members of the Senior Advisory Committee continue to look to the state, and the town, for support for its senior ride share program.

SAC Co-Chair Sandra Kelly told the members of the Motor Vehicles For Hire Commission that the group has been continuing its conversation with the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, which runs the state public bus system, to see if it is possible to bring a RIPTA vehicle to the town, especially during the winter months.

SAC is looking to provide cost-effective transportation for seniors who may otherwise be house-bound during the winter months. SAC has been, with the consent of the MVFH commissioners and local taxicab owners, helping to pay for cab rides for seniors who may not otherwise be able to get to the doctors, grocery, or other appointments. The rider pays $3 while SAC pays for the regular fare.

Funds for the winter ride program are limited, Kelly said. When the program was inaugurated last year, Kelly said that the cost of the rides totaled about $700.

However, SAC members are hoping to expand the program.

“Hopefully, we’ll get some support from RIPTA,” Kelly said at the MVFH meeting on Nov. 26. “At least Block Island is getting recognized. Three or four years ago we got nothing from the state.” Kelly added that Block Island tax revenues are a “bank for the state” and its now time for the state to invest in the town. “We need to get services that are provided on the mainland,” she added.

Kelly said the Rhode Island state budget appropriates $44 million for senior transportation. “We don’t get any of that,” she said. Kelly said that talks with the state have included the possibility of getting a van for the program. “But we’ll have to take care of it and hire a driver,” said Kelly. She also mentioned that RIPTA drivers are union members.

In the meantime, the senior cab ride program continues with at least one local taxi, McAloon’s, for the winter season. While the SAC has asked that the program be kept in place, cab owners have repeatedly said it would not be feasible to offer low-cost rides during the peak summer season.