New fares, schedules on the way for AnchorRides
Anchorage seniors who use the AnchorRIDES transportation program can expect new policies about hours of service and fares effective May 1.
Weekday senior transportation service hours will be expanded for the core service area, with the earliest pickups available at 5:45 a.m. and the latest dropoffs at 11:30 p.m. This increases by over six hours the Monday through Friday availability in areas where the pickup and dropoff is within three-quarters of a mile of a bus route.
The Municipal Department of Transportation, which administers AnchorRIDES, says it hopes this expansion of hours will provide seniors with greater flexibility to plan their trips and will reduce demand during the peak hours of afternoon and early evening which are currently experiencing capacity issues.
The changes in fares affect only the 45 percent of trips by seniors which are funded by the municipal operating budget. Depending upon the purpose of the trip, payment for senior rides will be free, with voluntary donations requested, or required fares at the rate of $3.50 or $5.50.
The lower fare of $3.50 will cover trips within the core area. Premium area trips – those with pickup and dropoff more than three-quarters of a mile away from a bus route – will cost $5.50.
This policy was described as “Option #1 – Donation or Fare based on Trip Purpose and Location” in a proposal produced and circulated by AnchorRides, for which the public comment period was extended to March 17.
About 55 percent of the senior trips with AnchorRIDES are funded by a state grant with an estimate of more than 21,000 trips for the state fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2014, according to the AnchorRides proposal document. This grant covers transportation for trips of high priority and fares cannot be charged. Riders cannot be denied trips if they are not able to make donations.
The result of this new policy is that trips with the highest priority, which includes medical, health care facilities and pharmacy trips, will be free with a donation requested and will be funded using the state grant.
The rates of $3.50 in the core area and $5.50 in the premium area will apply to trips to senior congregate meal sites; adult daycare and other senior support agencies; paid employment locations; volunteering; and all other locations. These rates will be subsidized with the municipality’s Public Transportation budget.
The Transportation Department believes that using this alternative, which provides the most critically needed trips on a free or donation basis, will serve the highest rider use. Although the lower priority trips will require payment of either $3.50 or $5.50, this is considered reasonable when compared to personal vehicle use and less than private for-hire transportation, according to Susan Shiffer, Contract Administrator for AnchorageRIDES.
With an anticipated start date of May 1, the month of April will be used, through a variety of media, to inform the riders and agencies of the policy change, Shiffer said. In addition, it will also be necessary to provide staff training, on-board signs and software revisions to include the new policy.
The office is at 700 W. 6th Avenue, Suite 109, Anchorage, 99501 and mail can be sent to that address.