The Antioch/Tri Delta Transit agreement since 1999 provides 50-cent rides for Antioch seniors from their homes to the Antioch Senior Center, local hospitals and any other general-errand destination. Last year, Tri Delta Transit announced there was no more grant money to fund the program. Throughout 2012, the city has been working with the transportation company to arrive at a solution.
Antioch’s City Council agreed Tuesday night to let Tri Delta Transit incorporate the senior bus program into its dial-a-ride service, since the city cannot afford to fund the program on its own.
Currently, seniors pay 50 cents for a one-way trip through the service. That fare will increase to $1 each way on Sept. 1, when the new agreement becomes official. This deal does not affect low-income seniors who utilize Tri Delta’s senior bus service for the County Senior Nutrition Plan to eat free lunch at the senior center.
“The issues regarding any potential future problems with the senior bus being operated by Tri Delta should be addressed swiftly and to everybody’s satisfaction,” said City Councilman Brian Kalinowski. “I’m understanding that the seniors can stomach – not completely, but somewhat – the $1 fare. I think it’s important that we do that in order for us to remain solvent for as long as possible without having to skyrocket those rates.”
If the agreement had not been reached, seniors would have paid the general fare of $2.50 per one-way ride. According to a memo from Bill Chapman, Chairman of the Antioch Committee on Aging, local seniors used the bus service nearly 23,500 times during the 2009-10 fiscal year.
“This will cushion the seniors from what could have been a 400-percent increase,” Antioch Community Development and Recreation Director Tina Wehrmeister said. “The dial-a-ride service is comparable to the existing bus service provided by the city, with actually several enhancements such as not constraining seniors to the city limits and the city business hours.”
Judy Norseen, President of the Antioch Senior Club, was pleased with City Council’s decision, so long as the fare stays affordable. Norseen uses the senior bus service five times per week. “As long as we can keep the costs down for the seniors, that’s the main thing,” she said. “It’s important that they have a way to get down there and have lunch.”
Lu Bottorff, another Antioch senior, was also worried about the possibility of future fare increases. She views a fare increase as potentially devastating to those who rely on the service to get around.
“It seems like when they set the time limits, they could be changed too easily,” Bottorff said. “It’s such a critical thing for seniors.”
Senior transit has been an object of controversy in the senior community ever since Tri Delta Transit announced in February that the organization would not continue to give Antioch $275,000 to subsidize the bus service. The two sides eventually worked their way to a compromise, in which Tri Delta Transit would give Antioch 5,000 bus tickets per year. The city could then set the price, which it did Tuesday night.
Mayor Jim Davis praised the hard work of Kalinowski, who has been heavily involved in the issue.
“I can literally say,” Davis said, “he drove the bus on this one.”