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Mesa considers reducing paratransit service in favor of taxi program

(Valley Metro Photo)

PHOENIX — The city of Mesa is considering scaling back its paratransit services in favor of a reduced-cost taxi program, a change that could go into effect as soon as July 1.

The federal government requires paratransit service be offered to disabled and senior residents within a three-quarter-mile radius of bus routes and light rail stations.

Mesa has gone above and beyond that requirement, but is saying that may no longer be possible.

“Right now we offer (paratransit) service citywide, and that is not a very sustainable model moving forward in order to maintain services for all residents,” Jodi Sorrell, transit services director, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday.

“The demographic using paratransit is living longer. The definition of a disability is getting broader. So the long-term financial sustainability of that program, we need to make some changes.”

Sorrell said that doesn’t mean people will be left without a means of transportation.

Instead, she said, they can use a low-cost service called RideChoice, which allows people to travel by Lyft and taxi up to 8 miles for $3.

Additional miles are $2 each, and the service can be used 20 times per month, although the trip limit can be increased for people who need extra for school, work and medical services.

Paratransit costs $4 per trip, no matter the mileage, and multiple passengers share one van.

Sorell said RideChoice does not require passengers to share vehicles, and it’s also faster.

“It’s more responsive. With paratransit, you have to book 24 hours in advance. With RideChoice, if you need to go now, you just call the RideChoice number and they’ll book a trip for you right there,” Sorrell said.

She said the city pays $46 per trip for paratransit services and only $18 to $20 per trip for RideChoice.

“It adds up very fast. So we want make sure that we have programs that are sustainable for everybody over the long term,” she said.

Sorrell said anyone who would like to comment on the change can do so on Valley Metro’s website.

More details about the proposal, including a map of services, are available online.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood contributed to this report.

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