Budget shortfalls threaten to price out paratransit riders

Budget shortfalls threaten to price out paratransit riders

Last summer, PACE, the agency that manages paratransit services for Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, announced a gap in its 2010 Budget millions of dollars wide. With a one-way paratransit ride now costing $2.25, PACE considered raising fares to anywhere between $3 a ride and $4.50 a ride in order to make up some of the deficit. In August, PACE announced that if no solution could be found, it would be forced to eliminate Paratransit services as soon as October. A stop gap funding solution avoided a shutdown of Paratransit, but a fare increase still looms. A recent story from the Chicago Tribune reported that PACE has proposed raising fares to $3.50 a ride in the suburbs and $4.50 a ride in Chicago. For riders in Chicago, $3 a trip would have been hard to budget; $4.50 a trip, double the current cost of a one-way ride, will be devastating.

For the past few months, riders with disabilities have been urging PACE and the Regional Transportation Authority, which oversees PACE, to keep rides affordable. “We understand what it means to face a financial crunch,” said Carleda Johnson, a youth team member at Access Living and a rider of Paratransit. “But too often it’s marginalized groups like people who disabilities who carry the burden of the crunch. We want to find a solution that keeps paratransit affordable.” At $4.50 a ride, some people with disabilities would have to make tough choices, perhaps eliminating a trip to visit with family and friends in favor of a trip to store to pick up food and prescriptions.

Beginning on October 19, PACE will hold a series of Public Hearings about the 2010 Budget and fare increases. For more information about the disability community’s efforts to prevent a fare increase, contact Carleda at 312-640-2159, cjohnson@accessliving.org For a full listing of public hearings, visit the PACE website.