Transit Program Faces Questions from Elder Affairs Committee

Annette Stoller, executive director of CART – the Cooperative Alliance for Regional Transportation – joined Rockingham Planning Commission Transportation Planner Scott Bogle and Londonderry CART Board member Bob Ramsay at the Londonderry Elder Affairs Committee to answer questions and complaints about transit service in town.

“CART is a transportation system, it is not big buses – it’s smaller transport buses,” Stoller explained to the committee at its Tuesday, Oct. 15 meeting. “We use a call center for trip scheduling, and we also offer advance scheduling, which we prefer.”
Stoller said CART owns four buses. “CART provides a lot of options to you and promotes regional connectivity,” Stoller said. “We’re not expecting a bus to go from Derry to Derry or Londonderry to Londonderry. We know full well that they are going to go from community to community. We know also that these buses are not for the elderly only.”
Elder Affairs Committee Chairman Al Baldasaro said he wanted the visitors to discuss problems that have arisen with CART. He asked about its operating hours, which are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
To meet needs before or after those hours, Stoller said CART has a taxi voucher program that offers a reduced price to participants.
Bogle said the voucher program is federally funded and is for seniors and for people with disabilities. “It is a grant that CART got a year ago with the idea of extending service hours, making an option available outside of CART’s regular service hours,” he explained. “The voucher program is called the Early Bird and Night Owl service, which is a partnership with Green Cab. Originally it was set up to operate Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.”
Bogle said the vouchers use a 50/50 fare structure, in which the rider pays 50 percent of the cab fare and the federal grant pays the other 50 percent.
“Based on rider request, we actually expanded it to allow medical trips and employment trips anytime during the day and also extended it to all day on Saturday,” Bogle said. He noted that people sometimes have a late afternoon doctor’s appointment that can run past 5 p.m., after the CART buses leave the road, and they can use the Green Cab voucher program to get home.
Committee member Bonnie Ritvo said she had called about the voucher program and was told the client had to buy the voucher. “I forget what it is but to go to the Senior Center from Crossroads Mall on Route 102, a seven mile distance, is $15 each way. Thirty dollars for a round trip,” Ritvo said.
Stoller said the vouchers come in packs of 10 and the $15 cab ride “doesn’t sound right to me. You can get it at half price if you qualify. You qualify by being over 62 years old, on Medicaid, disabled. We have criteria.”
Stoller asked for Ritvo’s telephone number so she could check on the situation and let her know the results.
Ritvo cited other complaints, including that seniors have called the required two weeks in advance to get transportation to and from doctors’ or physical therapy appointments and were called back within 48 hours of the appointment to say CART could not pick them up either for the ride to or back from the appointment.
Baldasaro asked what would happen if a senior went to an appointment that ran after 5 p.m. and didn’t have a voucher. Stoller said the client can call Green Cab, which may make arrangements.
“See, that ‘may’ makes me nervous,” Baldasaro said.
Ritvo said she doesn’t drive in the winter and had called CART for a ride at the beginning of every month last winter and was told she would be picked up. On a few occasions, however, she said she was called within the 48 hours that CART has to confirm the ride, and was told the ride either to or from the Senior Center would not be available and she had to make other arrangements.
Stoller said not all passengers seem to be dissatisfied because CART had 1,978 rides in the last two months in Londonderry. “Each way counts as a ride,” she said.
Baldasaro asked if CART received state funding and Bogle said it does not.
Stoller asked Ritvo for telephone numbers from dissatisfied seniors and said she would investigate and follow up with them. Ritvo said she would get the numbers.
According to Town Finance Director Susan Hickey, the town paid CART $26,397 for FY 13 and the Town Council had approved another $26,397 for FY 14.

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