St. Charles mass transit plans scaled-back system

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 9, 1999

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / May 9, 1999

HAHNVILLE – St. Charles Parish’s mass transit system, operated by the St.Charles Council on Aging for more than two years, will be scaled back drastically as of July 1.

The 12-van system, under the supervision of Patty Medley, transported elderly and handicapped persons to shopping and for medical appointments, provided “meals on wheels” service and brought seniors on organized field trips. Those services will continue.However, the contract and voucher services to anyone needing transport with the pre-purchase of a voucher presented to the driver, is ending.

COA Executive Director Margaret Powe explained that the public transportation efforts “gradually began to have a negative affect on transportation needs of the elderly.”Specifically, Powe said, “Over the last few months, we were not able to maintain our quality of service.” Buses would break down from the heavyuse and would be late for scheduled stops. “We couldn’t spread ourselvesthat thin.”In an average day, Medley reported, 35 people under the age of 60 would ride. Twenty-eight of these would be “contract” riders with AARPmembership or with approval of the Office of Family Services. Four wouldbe disabled riders under the age of 60.

Also on that average day, six vouchers would be used. A voucher is sold, inadvance only as no driver carries cash, to anyone under the age of 60 in need of a ride. Prices are $2 per in-parish trip and $4 for outside theparish.

Hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.An additional problem, Powe continued, was that with the booming economy, another ongoing problem was finding and keeping drivers, as another better-paying job was always available.

As a result of the declining quality of service, Powe ordered a transportation task force study the problems in September 1998. The goalof the task force was to ensure that the COA was moving in the right direction in customer service, financial aspects and other developmental areas.

Following months of study it was recommended to severely restrict the use of the transit system to those for whom it was originally intended – the elderly of St. Charles Parish. Among the plans will be to graduallyreduce the size of the 12-van fleet as being unnecessary.

On April 15, the COA board of directors voted unanimously to adopt the task force’s recommendations, effective July 1.

“It was never a money-making proposition,” Powe said.

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