By Will Reisman, @WillReisman

IMG_20140916_093629_584As the service that provides rides for passengers with disabilities, SamTrans’ paratransit operations are vital mobility resources for Peninsula residents in need.

Through its Redi-Wheels and Redi-Coast programs–which provide paratransit service on San Mateo County’s Bay Side and Coastside, respectively–SamTrans allows people with disabilities the opportunity to travel throughout San Mateo County.

SamTrans has seen a significant growth in its paratransit ridership recently–a testament to just how important the network is to local customers.

For the 2015 fiscal year, which ended last June, paratransit services posted an average weekday ridership of 1,130 passengers, a 4.6 percent increase from the year prior. Overall, more than 329,000 total trips we’re taken on paratransit during the 2015 fiscal year.

The ridership gains seen in 2015 have been even more pronounced in the first half of this fiscal year.

This past December, average weekday ridership on paratransit was up 12.6 percent compared to the December of 2014. For the first six months of the 2016 fiscal year, which began in July, average weekday ridership on paratransit is up an impressive 9.8 percent.

Paratransit is an essential service for its customers, and SamTrans provides rides for every passenger that requests a trip on the system. It is a service that SamTrans is immensely proud to provide, but is also expensive.

An average trip on paratransit costs over $42 and fares recover less than five percent of those costs. To help address that issue, SamTrans Board of Directors approved a set of fare increases for paratransit services. The first set of raises went into effect on January 1, with fares going up from $3.75 to $4.25. The second set of raises will take place on January 1, 2019, when fares are increased to $4.75.

While the fare increases provide some relief, they are not a long-term solution for funding paratransit services.

SamTrans is strongly committed to providing high quality paratransit service for its customers. So finding new and additional funding sources to ensure that those services stay robust is a top priority for the agency.

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