Dial-A-Ride expanding hours during the week and offering Saturday rides to residents
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Crawford County residents who have New Year’s resolutions for better time management or getting involved in more activities may get a little help from the Crawford County Transportation Authority.
Starting on Wednesday, Jan. 2, the Crawford County Transportation Authority, better known as Dial-A-Ride, will expands its service hours from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. That adds an extra hour to get local residents where they need to be before the buses are parked for the night.
And for the first time in the 42-year history for Dial-A-Ride, rides will be offered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday on a demand response basis.
“We’re going to start out with a limited area until we see how it goes,” said Julee Dean, the executive director for the Crawford County Transportation Authority. “The board wants to give it a 90-day trial to see how it works. It’s going to be a limited staff, also. If it works, we’ll go countywide.”
The limited service area will include an area extending to the west of Grayling out to AuSable Trail. The boundary to the east is at the Resurrection Life Center. The buses will travel south as far as Charlie’s County Corner. The area covered north of Grayling extends out to Wilcox Bridge Road.
“It will allow people to get on Saturdays,” Dean said.
The expansion in hours was prompted by the passage of a .25 mill request on the Aug. 7 primary election ballot.
The millage, which will be levied from 2018 to 2020, passed by 1,862 yes to 1,182 no vote. It will raise $133,220 per year toward the purchase of new buses.
After the millage was approved, funding through the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) was also allocated to transit agencies located throughout the state.
In 2009, President Barack Obama and Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to try to help the nation overcome an economic recession.
A large lump of funding was allocated to the MDOT, which in turn passed the money down to 87 transit agencies located throughout the state to buy buses.
The Crawford County Transportation Authority has 18 buses. They become eligible for replacement after seven years and 250,000 miles.
“All of them are due to be replaced,” Dean said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take a couple of years, probably.”
Since local funding can be matched with state dollars to purchase buses, the transit authority decided to expand service hours. Increasing hours has been a topic of discussion for some time.
“I just told the board that we need to do something for the community, and that is what we came up with,” Dean said.
Two more additional drivers were brought on board to handle the expanded hours, so the transportation authority does not have to pay overtime pay to drivers already on staff. It took time to get the new drivers hired and trained.
“To expand, we needed more drivers,” Dean said. “It was kind of bare bones for a while.”
If recent demand for rides shows any indication, the expanded hours should be a success.
Since the start of the transit authority fiscal year on Oct. 1, there has been a steady stream of residents seeking rides for shopping and appointments.
In October, there were 700 additional riders, totaling a ridership of 9,515 passengers. In November, there were 1,400 more riders with a total of 8,485 passengers.
“The drivers love it because they’re busy non-stop,” Dean said.
Dean said the transportation authority strives to match its resources with the demand from county residents and services being offered by other agencies and businesses.
“We appreciate everybody’s continued support,” she said.