Transit system getting a revamp

Feedback asked on schedule and route changes

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comMarch 14, 2013 

— Some big changes are coming to Merced County's bus service and transit officials want to hear from the public.

"We want to be able to get feedback on not only the fixed-route changes, but also provide education about the upcoming ADA recertification process," said Transit Manager Rich Green. "We want people to understand why we're doing this."

Green is restructuring the entire bus system by creating new routes and schedules.

He said the changes will make the system easier to understand and should eliminate late buses, a frequent complaint among riders. Another big change is adding evening and Sunday bus service, a request made for many years.

By holding transit workshops in Merced, Los Banos and Atwater, he hopes to get feedback from the public. Green will unveil the new schedules March 22 at an open house inside the Transportation Center in Merced.

Green said he will answer all questions during that open house meeting.

"I want to make sure that we haven't designed the fixed routes in a way that we've eliminated opportunities for folks," he said. "We don't want to take something out and have people concerned that their route was eliminated or made it harder for people to get around."

In addition to changing the bus routes, Green will recertify the users of the dial-a-ride system, which serves people who can't use the fixed routes. Green estimates about 500 riders used the system in the past six months.

Three categories

Green's team will recertify each user to ensure they are still eligible to use the program. They could be approved on a "conditional," "unrestricted" or "temporary" status, he said.

Conditional would be for those riders who can normally use the fixed routes, but may occasionally need dial-a-ride service.

Unrestricted provides unlimited dial-a-ride service, and temporary allows riders to use the service based on a treatment plan and for a short period of time.

Green estimates it will take about three months to recertify all active users. The recertification process will happen every three years, he added.

He's also planning to change the name from dial-a-ride to paratransit services and launch an online application process.

Having a disability doesn't automatically qualify riders for the service, Green said, adding that the changes were prompted by the Federal Transportation Administration's Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

"The eligibility is a transportation decision, not a medical decision," he said. "Meaning it's not whether or not a person has a disability. It's whether a person can use a transit system."

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.


TRANSIT WORKSHOPS

• MERCED:

March 22 -- 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the transportation center, 710 W. 16th St.

April 2 -- 3 to 5 p.m., at the Sam Pipes Room inside Civic Center at 678 W. 18th St.

April 2 -- 6 to 8 p.m., at the MCAG office, 369 W. 18th St.

• LOS BANOS:

March 26 -- 10 a.m. to noon, or 1 to 3 p.m., in the Community Center, 645 Seventh St.

• ATWATER:

April 1 -- 3 to 5 p.m., or 6 to 8 p.m., in the Community Center,

760 Bellevue Road

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