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Dial-a-Ride plagued by cuts

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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Lincoln’s Dial-a-Ride service to the Roseville Galleria and Wal-Mart stopped without warning in February, according to Gail Spence, a Lincoln resident. Spence’s daughter, 45-year-old Joyce Spence, has cerebral palsy, and took Dial-a-Ride – the door-to-door service offered to all Lincoln residents for $2 per ride – to the Galleria and Wal-Mart on a regular basis. “It’s her opportunity to get out of the house and be independent,” Spence said. Joyce Spence can move about with the help of a power chair and Spence’s vehicle – a small car – cannot transport the chair. To travel to the Galleria now, Joyce Spence must take Dial-a-Ride to the bus stop at Third and F streets, then catch a Placer County bus to the stop at the Galleria – a stop that is currently adjacent to construction and poses safety concerns, according to Gail Spence. “I think she is prey to anybody, and any old person traveling alone is prey,” she added. The Dial-a-Ride service from Lincoln to the Galleria and back was one of the reasons the Spences moved to their Sun City Lincoln Hills residence from the Bay Area five years ago, the mother said. “What frustrates me is they took away a service,” Gail said. “It’s not like I came here and am asking for them to put it in.” Joyce Spence is also unhappy with the new developments. “That’s wrong,” she said. “That’s not fair. It was nice to have it.” Although a monthly bus stops at Wal-Mart, it gives residents only two hours at the store, which Joyce said isn’t enough time if that is one of the few outings she can take that month. Another resident upset with the cancellation of Dial-a-Ride service to the Galleria and Wal-Mart is Ann Hotchkiss. Hotchkiss’ mother was killed in a car accident and Hotchkiss, 77, said she has never driven in her life. “There was no notice given,” Hotchkiss said. “They stopped cold turkey.” Hotchkiss said she used to travel to Roseville on Dial-a-Ride two or three times per week before the service stopped Feb. 18. Stopping that service, according to Hotchkiss, was unfair. “(Joyce Spence) would spend the whole day there just going around in her wheelchair and enjoying herself,” Hotchkiss said. “There were many people like that.” The stop in that service, according to Mayor Spencer Short, was not due to the budget cuts made in January to close the city’s $1-million General Fund deficit but was because of a perceived lack of need by transit officials. Short said he doesn’t believe that perception is correct. To receive federal funding, which accounts for more money than the transit system costs to operate, Lincoln Transit must be able to recoup 10 percent of its costs in fares, according to Short. The additional money from the federal government helps maintain the streets and other areas used by the buses. “Public transit in Lincoln is designed to serve needs in Lincoln,” Short said. With only two Dial-a-Ride buses, Short said that trips to the Galleria and back, then back to the Galleria and back again, for one person might prevent other residents from being able to use a service designed to be in Lincoln. There is the possibility for such trips, however. According to Short, trips are made outside Lincoln twice monthly for medical needs to area hospitals. “I understand the need to connect (to the Galleria), but at the same time, it becomes akin to a taxi service,” Short said. Residents’ concerns will be heard at a meeting set for 6 p.m. Monday in the Community Room on the first floor of City Hall at 600 Sixth St., said Terry Rodrigue, interim director of public works for the city of Lincoln. “Right now we’re trying to evaluate the demand for that service,” Rodrigue said. Monday’s meeting, Rodrigue said, will help Public Works staff determine how much demand there is for the service as well as get feedback on different options that might make the service feasible to operate. Joyce and Gail Spence, and Hotchkiss, said they would not mind paying more for the service, since it does go farther than typical trips inside Lincoln, and they would also be happy to have the service on a scheduled basis rather than have it remain canceled. At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, however, the Spences and Hotchkiss said they had not heard of the meeting. “This is the first I’ve heard about it,” Gail said. “It’s going to be totally ineffective if people aren’t there. I think it’s all show.” Gail Spence and Hotchkiss both said they plan on being there and hope others will be able to attend as well but fear that word might not spread as far as it needs to reach all the affected residents. Until some form of transit service is reinstated that will bring Joyce Spence to the Galleria, she said she will “be stuck at home bored.” “I want to be out on my own,” she added. Dial-a-Ride Workshop Information: 6 p.m. Monday in the Community Room on the first floor of City Hall at 600 Sixth St. Join Public Works department representatives for a discussion on Dial-a-Ride options for the city of Lincoln to retail shopping in Roseville Dial-a-Ride is available for transport to the meeting with 24 hours advance notice For more information, contact 434-2450.