Metro Mobility Future Still in Doubt

Governor Carlson’ office announced on August 2nd that they are continuing to work on delivering money to match the promise made to riders back in June on the steps of the Governor’s mansion.

The Governor’s plan to borrow $400,000.00 to $500,000.00 as a short term solution to rate increases and cuts in service has proved to be more complex than originally thought.

First, the Department of Finance informed Gov. Carlson that the 1991 legislation funding the system prohibits the Regional Transit Board from spending any additional money on Metro Mobility service.

Second, a voucher program proposed to subsidize certain riders who are most “at risk” of being priced out of the system, funded through the Department of Human Services, is found unworkable because the DHS has no existing mechanism for issuing vouchers to Metro Mobility riders.

Currently, it is still unclear if a transfer of funds is possible. If possible, a contract must be negotiated with an outside contractor to provide and sell discount coupon books to certain riders, under some yet to be determined criteria. It seems questionable that such a procedure can be implemented in the near future. Providers say the drop in ridership anticipated in July is running almost exactly as predicted, somewhere between twelve and fifteen percent less than previous levels.

Providers of Metro Mobility services, meanwhile, have signed a six month contract to provide services at substantially lower rates to a smaller population of eligible riders. The companies involved, having capitalized their operations to provide services at the higher level, regard this short-term contract as temporary, allowing the service to survive its present shortfall. Long-term, the rate reductions and cuts in service would be disastrous for many of the current providers.

Riders and providers alike are left wondering what the future holds in store. Legislators seem uncertain at this time also, and those we queried felt that the governor must make a positive statement in support of full funding if there is to be any chance of even considering revising the bill passed this year. The governor’s office says he is in a “wait and see” position at this time.

Representative Jim Rice provided an explanation of legislative reasoning behind the shortfall which appears above and to the left.