Taken for a ride

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    The Rev. Pam McCarety vigorously expressed (letter to the editor [“Giving elderly a lift, March 4]) her well-placed concern for Malibu’s elderly citizens on fixed income. Her rage at the City Council’s attitude towards the Dial-a-Ride Program was not so well placed. After the city staff advised the council that the cost of the program was out of control, and that there appeared to be significant abuses of the intent of the program, the council asked the Public Works Commission to review the matter and advise the council on an appropriate approach to solving the problem. The council did not express any “attitude” to the commission on the matter.

    The staff advised the commission that this fiscal year the costs would probably exceed the available funding by more than $50,000, and thus possibly force an undesirable early termination of the entire program. The staff noted that much of the problem seemed to result from what might be termed “abuses”: use of the program by individuals not living in the city, by those too young to be eligible, use of the program for commuting to work or connecting with car-pools in Santa Monica; and use by those with an automobile, a driver’s license, and more-than-adequate financial resources. These possible-abuses are associated with a small percentage of the nearly 150 users of the program. The staff noted the county’s ACCESS program is available to about 90 percent of the handicapped living in the city.

    After a thoughtful discussion, and constructive input from the public, the commission voted (unanimously) to recommend that the council take action to limit the Dial-a-Ride program to residents of the city; and to require users to register, identifying their age, whether they had a driver’s license and car, and the nature of their disability, if they had one. The commission also suggested that the staff examine possible annual “financial caps” on the use of the program by individuals, as used by some other cities. The commission did not recommend that any change be made at this time to the minimum age, that a financial-need requirement be established, or that the program be limited to the disabled. It noted that the ACCESS program is available to disabled persons living within 3/4 mile of a bus route (about 90 percent of the homes in Malibu), but that it requires advanced planning and sometimes inconvenient scheduling.

    It is too bad that the Rev. Pam McCarety did not choose to attend the Public Works Commission meeting, nor apparently review the information presented in the city staff’s report on the Dial-a-Ride program. I’m sure that her well-informed and thoughtful input will be welcomed by a concerned council when the matter comes before it.

    John Wall