Most residents who wanted to complain about Mesa’s proposal to slash the senior Diala-Ride program had only one way to get to the meeting downtown — they had to catch a ride with Dial-a-Ride.
It was perhaps the pinnacle of irony as two busloads of senior citizens and disabled residents pulled up to the front of City Council chambers on Monday, all clamoring for a chance at the microphone. More than half of the roughly 60 participants came via Diala-Ride, and all of them urged the city to continue paying for the program.
Senior Dial-a-Ride is among the many programs on the city’s chopping block after a property tax ballot measure failed in the May 16 election. Now the program is in jeopardy, even though some of its users did not support the property tax.
On July 5, the City Council will decide whether to cut the entire $1.4 million needed to keep the service alive. At that meeting, the council will review the comments from the disgruntled residents.
Jeff Kramer, Mesa’s traffic division director, said the city will still provide the bus service for disabled residents. The council is contemplating cutting only the service for residents who are not certified under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
All Dial-a-Ride services in Mesa and other East Valley cities are administered by Valley Metro. Dial-a-Ride passengers who are certified as disabled pay $2 for a one-way trip, while people without disabilities pay anywhere from $1 to $4.50 for a one-way trip. Kids under the age of 5 ride free. About 230 non-ADA riders used the service from January to May, according to city officials.
“Mesa is supposed to be a mecca for retirees, but when the retirees can no longer drive, they are treated with contempt,” said 67-year-old Connie Ryan, who is blind and often relies on Dial-a-Ride. “There’s got to be some type of compromise on this. Cabs aren’t going to work with large wheelchairs.”
Even ADA-certified people would be affected by the program cuts. Even for them, Dial-a-Ride would not run on Sundays.
“I go to church every Sunday,” said Susan Nettles, who attended Monday’s meeting. “If you cut the service, I won’t have any way to go to church. I really just depend on Dial-a-Ride, and I never thought it would come to this.”
To mitigate some of the effects of cutting Dial-a-Ride, the council is proposing a funding boost of $186,000 to support alternative transportation programs like the Maricopa County Special Senior Services and Ride Choice — a service offered through Mesa Senior Services.
What’s your opinion?
To comment on the senior Dial-a-Ride service, contact the city by writing to the Mesa Transportation Division, Attn: Maurice Light, P.O. Box 1466, Mesa AZ 85211 or call (480) 644-4131 to leave your comments. You can also e-mail the city at firstname.lastname@example.org.