Who is eligible to ride The Traveler bus and what kind of trips it makes is being reviewed by Rifle City Council members and city staff as the cost of operating the program goes up, along with the number of people using it.
Operated under Garfield County Senior Programs, Rifle has been part of a nine-party Intergovernmental Agreement to fund meal services and transportation since 2009, when the county took over management of the program from Colorado Mountain College.
“On the transportation side, The Traveler is used to take people to things like doctor appointments or whatever,” said City Manager Matt Sturgeon. “But the costs of transportation are going up significantly and our revenues are not keeping up with the cost of transportation.
For 2014, Rifle’s portion of the costs were about $88,000, an increase of 53 percent over the $57,000 it cost in 2011, Sturgeon said. In comparison, Rifle’s portion of the Senior Meals program rose just over 1 percent for the same period.
“Staff’s position is that if some constraints aren’t placed on transportation, the program costs are going to exceed what communities can afford and the entire program will be placed in jeopardy,” Sturgeon said.
Rifle has 129 total riders and of those, 40 are under the age of 65 and qualified as disabled. The current qualifications say that the service is for those 60 years of age or older and there are very little restrictions when requesting a ride on The Traveler. The cost for a ride is a “suggested” $2 donation.
“Some people have a driver’s license and a car, but prefer to use The Traveler,” Sturgeon said. “Staff wants to look at the parameters of who qualifies to ride The Traveler and what types of trips they’re making. Maybe there should be one trip on Thursdays when everyone goes to their doctor’s appointment. There’s a lot of different variables to look at.”
The discussion was held in a workshop meeting and no action was taken.