Road Runner

Road Runner: RTA mulls eliminating low income passes too

2013-08-26T00:00:00Z 2013-08-26T15:06:10Z Road Runner: RTA mulls eliminating low income passes tooBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Let’s chalk this one up to the law of unintended consequences.

The Regional Transportation Authority is now proposing eliminating low-income passes for its curb-to-curb van service known as Sun Shuttle and Handi-Car.

The move, if adopted, would precisely mirror the push Sun Van started several weeks ago to increase its $1-per-trip fare by 300 percent.

Increasing the fare paid by those who qualify for the low-income pass for the paratransit service — mostly the physically or the developmentally handicapped — forces those least able to pay to make choices about where they have to go.

Sun Van’s proposal has already met opposition from community members at public meetings, many telling the city-affiliated service they cannot afford on their fixed incomes to absorb the proposed fare increase.

Jeremy Papuga, the RTA’s director of transit services, said the decision to pursue a fare increase at this time is largely spurred by Sun Van’s proposal.

The RTA, he says, has a policy designed to keep fares consistent throughout entire community.

He argues that problems could arise for the transit service down the road if it offers a cheaper rate than Sun Van.

Not that its service is cheaper to provide — the RTA estimates it costs $32 per trip for its paratransit service. For Sun Van, the figure is about $29.

The announcement that the RTA was going to hold public meetings on the proposal caught Patrick McCarthy, the director of development and communications for the Beacon Group, off-guard.

He said he wasn’t expecting other transportation providers to increase their prices at the exact same time.

In the end, the RTA proposal hurts the people who work at the Beacon Group, he said.

“An $80 monthly increase in transportation expense would be a real challenge for most people. For low-income folks, it’s a major problem. For someone with a developmental disability living on a few hundred dollars a month – it’s an impossibility,” McCarthy said. “If the increases go through, we are unsure of how many will have no choice but to stay home. And we are just one organization.”

The Tucson City Council is expected to discuss the Sun Van proposal on Sept. 10.

The first RTA hearing is currently scheduled for Tuesday at the Oro Valley Library from 4 to 5 p.m.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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