Courier Staff Writer
10-15 Transit needs to think outside of the box in order to increase ridership, said its executive director, Diane Gawronski.
At the 10-15 Transit Advisory Board meeting Thursday, Ottumwa Finance Director Bob Jay said if ridership doesn’t start improving, it will start eating into the organization’s fund balance.
“You’ll have to start reducing what goes out to match what’s coming in,” Jay said.
Once reimbursement to the Iowa Department of Transportation for charter violations ends, that will help with 10-15 Transit’s bottom line, Jay said. The organization currently has nine monthly payments of $8,800 left.
“We’re looking at every penny,” Gawronski said. “We’re trying to be creative and look for any opportunity to increase ridership and therefore increase income.”
One option is a prepaid voucher system, which has already begun in Mahaska County at Love In The Name Of Christ (Love INC) and soon at Mahaska Health Partnership. Ottumwa’s correctional facility is also jumping on board to provide rides for its residents to and from work.
The voucher system allows organizations to purchase bundles of bus passes to distribute to clients who need transportation but can’t afford it.
“It’s for riders who need a ride but they find the $2 both ways to be a burden,” Gawronski said.
And with the holidays approaching, she said civic organizations could purchase vouchers to distribute to those in need.
Within each respective county, it’s a $2 one-way ride for those 12 years and older, 50 cents one-way for children age 6-12 and free for children age 5 and under.
But much of the public seems to be confused, Gawronski said, believing that 10-15 Transit, and often even Ottumwa Transit, are for disabled and low-income individuals only.
“But they’re open to everybody,” she said.
Operations Manager Dave Silverio said maintenance is an ongoing headache with the aging buses.
“There’s a slim chance we’ll get new buses,” he said.
And after new public transportation legislation, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), passed Congress, Gawronski said it looks like very little money will be available for the purchase of buses statewide.
MAP-21 would extend public transit funding through September of 2014, but would also reduce funding available to Iowa transit agencies for the purchase of new buses, she said in a previous meeting.
“We’ll just keep patching and maintaining them as well as we can because it looks like we’re not going to get funding for buses,” she said.
There is a possibility, though, that the IDOT will consider moving $3 million from the Iowa Clean Air Attainment Program to the Office of Public Transit for bus replacement, said Chris Kukla, Area 15 Regional Planning Commission transportation planner.
“Unfortunately, $3 million doesn’t go far with bus replacement [spread statewide],” Gawronski said.
10-15 Transit will not hold a November meeting. The next advisory board meeting will be Dec. 20.