Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A first look at Omnitrans’ fare policy change proposals

(3/13/13) – IE Transit Talking Points Short

The Transit Coalition will take a critical look into Omnitran’s recent proposal to amend its fare policy. At present, Omnitrans has no plans to actually hike fares; the agency is proposing policy changes. With the amount of government waste from both the state and federal level reported in the media, any budget-related fare hikes will be questioned. According to the transit agency, here is what is at stake with some preliminary commentary:

Proposed Omnitrans fare policy changes:
  1. Reclassify the Student Pass into a Youth Pass category. Namely, adult students who are not enrolled in a Go Smart participating school will pay the regular adult bus fare. The discounted passes for youth 17 and under would be maintained. Several other transit agencies follow this model.
  2. Simplify the definition of the Go Smart fare program. Generally speaking, this will simplify and get rid of unnecessary red-tape bureaucracy for schools and business desiring to enroll in the program, thus making Go Smart more business friendly.
  3. Cancel the ADA Access Monthly Subscription fare category. Persons with recurring “subscription” trips will pay the regular cash fare to ride Omnitrans' paratransit buses. This change is certainly debatable. Paratransit shuttles generally follow fixed routes and deviate up to 3/4 of a mile for door-to-door service. There are immobile bus riders who physically cannot use Omnitrans’ fixed routes, require door-to-door service, and rely on a simple monthly fare package.

    However, the Transit Coalition is aware that there are mobile senior/disabled paratransit riders who would actually use the fixed routes instead of paratransit; however, many don’t simply because they do not understand how to use the fixed bus routes and therefore stick with the more costly paratransit option.

    Federally mandated paratransit bus service is by far the most expensive line item in a transit agency’s bus operating budget and getting mobile riders off Omnitrans' Access shuttles and onto the fixed route system would save local taxpayers thousands of dollars. Omnitrans may want to consider launching a transit ambassador program, similar to ones already in place by RTA and NCTD, to educate the riding public of how to use the fixed route system. This would incline mobile paratransit riders to give the more cost-efficient fixed bus routes a try and save paratransit resources to those who really need it.

2 comments:

  1. An Omni spokesperson speaking in the Daily Bulletin said that fewer than 10 people actually used the monthly subscription passes. AFAIK, the move to eliminate the subscription pass isn't to move paratransit riders to the fixed routes, it's just to eliminate a fare category that costs more to administer than it's worth due to low use.

    http://www.dailybulletin.com/news/ci_22767173/omnitrans-sets-meeting-fares

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the info. That may be a good enough reason to get rid of the Access monthly pass. Omnitrans stated in its press release that this fare option was little-used, but less than 10 patrons is absolutely dismal. Nevertheless, an ambassador program to educate riders will further help Omnitrans control its paratransit ridership and its costs.

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