Disabled residents object to Gilbert's proposed paratransit service changes

Community members with disabilities and their family members said a proposal for Gilbert to shrink its paratransit offerings will greatly increase their transportation costs and shrink their world.

Their comments came at a Feb. 11 public hearing on the proposal held at the Southeast Regional Library in Gilbert.

“You say it's being done for what's best for the citizens that use the service, but it really comes across that it's more going to benefit financially Gilbert and not what's best for the citizens,” said resident George Majus, whose wife uses paratransit services. “And I find that appalling.”

The proposal goes before Town Council on March 3 and the Valley Metro board March 19. If adopted, the changes would begin Oct. 26.

Paratransit, mostly known locally as Dial-a-Ride, provides transportation for people with disabilities who are unable to use fixed-route transit service in their region. Paratransit usually provides door-to-door service for people who call for a ride.

The service is federally mandated within three-quarters of a mile of regular bus routes, but Gilbert has offered it throughout town. The proposal is to scale service back to what is federally mandated, leaving much of south Gilbert and a portion of central Gilbert without paratransit service.

However, those affected would still have access to RideChoice, a service that gives access to taxis and ride services such as Uber. Paratransit involves a shared ride, but RideChoice does not have to be shared.

RideChoice is cheaper for the town at a subsidy of $20 per ride vs. $49 per ride for Paratransit. RideChoice also can cheaper be for the rider, as it starts at $3 per ride, as opposed to Paratransit, which is $4 per ride.

However, a charge of $2 per mile kicks in for RideChoice users once they go past 8 miles.

Those charges can make RideChoice prohibitively expensive, some people at the hearing said. Examples people shared included $30 each way to Mesa Community College; $39 to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Phoenix; and $27 to Ability 360, a fitness center in Phoenix tailored for the disabled.

“We have a significant amount of money in the area, and it's growing, which means a larger tax base,” Gilbert resident and Art Intersection owner Alan Fitzgerald said. "I'm afraid that restricting somebody who has already been restricted by no choice of their own, that further restriction will reduce the enjoyment of our town. It will reduce the ability for people to live a more fulfilled life. ... We shouldn't allow them to have a budgetary constraint restrict what they're able to do and not have a life.”
By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


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