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State May Slash Funds for Dial-A-Ride in Greenwich

On-demand transportation for seniors and disabled residents through Dial-A-Ride may be forced to charge higher fees if Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed budget passes, says James Boutelle, executive director of the Transportation Association of Greenwich .

Under the proposed state budget, Dial-A-Ride funding would be cut from $8 million to $6 million, which may cause the transportation association to increase the price of one-way trips from $3 to $5 in July. “It’s a significant percentage increase for the riders,” said Boutelle. “Red Cross and Call-A-Ride services are free, but riders need to be ambulatory. All of our vehicles are handicapped accessible. … They need our service, and it’s going to cost more.”

The Dial-A-Ride service is 11.9 percent of the association’s total business and accounts for $160,000 of the $1.6 million yearly total cost of running the nonprofit, said Boutelle.

In recent years, Dial-A-Ride service has been extended to Stamford for residents traveling to Greenwich and towns such as Port Chester, Rye, Rye Brook and part of White Plains, N.Y. If the state budget were to pass, Boutelle says the service may have to discontinue taking new clients in Stamford or end the service in that city. “When a senior reaches out for the first time, we are not in the business of saying no,” said Boutelle. “It’s a necessity for many.”

Dial-A-Ride also takes 200 to 300 rides a year from Scarsdale, N.Y., to New Haven, at the cost of $11.90 per trip plus driver wait time. Boutelle said these services might come to a halt.

Last week, the entire staff took a 10 percent pay cut. But he said the association would not cut safety. The vehicles must be maintained, drivers need to be paid and two dispatchers must always be on call. “Our goal is to get a senior where they need to go. But when they need to be picked up, they shouldn’t have to wait more than 15 minutes to go home,” said Boutelle.

The association has applied for a United Way grant, and the town, under the direction of First Selectman Peter Tesei, has agreed to a 2.9 percent increase in funding. The town currently matches the $77,000 funded through the state. The association also plans to hold a Breakfast, Car Rally, Champagne and Private Automobile Collection Tour fundraiser May 15.

Is it fair to increase the cost for those who need Dial-A-Ride services? Would you or your family be affected? Comment below or send your response to ahelhoski@mainstreetconnect.us.

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