A local nonprofit organization focused on senior citizens hopes its discount program will take some of the sting out of a public-transit rate hike that went into effect Jan. 1.
The Council for Older Adults of Delaware County recently announced its Bus Bucks program, which will offer discounts to seniors who use the Delaware Area Transit Agency's on-demand service.
DATA announced in early December that it would raise rates for its on-demand bus service, because population growth in the area led the federal government to change its designation from rural to part of the Columbus metropolitan area. That led to decreased federal funding for the agency.
The cost for short on-demand trips -- up to 5 miles -- more than doubled, from $4 to $11. Costs for longer trips increased by as much as $57.
The Council for Older Adults responded by offering up to $50 per month for county residents age 60 or older to be used toward the on-demand service. The seniors will have to provide a $4 co-payment per on-demand trip to take part in the program.
Bob Horrocks, executive director of the Council for Older Adults, said the agency has budgeted $120,000 for the program so far.
"We've made some estimates of what we think this will cost," he said. "We're going to be monitoring it pretty closely for the first few months."
Horrocks said there is a chance the nonprofit will need to look at allocating more money to the program as the year goes on. It already allocates $180,000 annually to DATA so seniors can pay a reduced rate of 50 cents per trip on its fixed bus routes.
"We want to encourage people to take the buses on the (fixed) routes when they can," Horrocks said.
The council also offers a volunteer-based transportation service for seniors who need help getting to medical appointments. Horrocks said DATA will inform seniors who inquire about the on-demand rides about the less-costly services available.
The goal of all the programs, Horrocks said, is to keep seniors safe.
"One of our fears is, there are just some folks who shouldn't be driving," he said.
Seniors who want to use the Bus Bucks program, which went into effect Jan. 2, may call DATA at 740-363-3355.