A ridesharing service for seniors and people with disabilities is planning to raise fares for the first time in two decades and cap the number of trips members can take each month.

The Big Blue Bus’s on-demand service moved into the digital age last July, replacing its Dial-a-Ride program with a partnership with Lyft that has doubled the number of rides taken each day under the same $600,000 budget and $0.50 one-way fares. Any verified Santa Monica resident over 60 or older than 18 with a disability can use the service to travel within city limits, parts of Venice and Los Angeles medical facilities during regular business hours and in the morning and early afternoon on weekends.

Fares haven’t changed since 1998, but with a record 1,900 people signed up for Mobility On-Demand Every Day (MODE) taking almost 6,000 trips each month, BBB director Ed King said it’s time to raise the fare to $2 to sustain the fast-growing program. Fares currently offset about two percent of MODE’s operating costs.

The regular fare would rise to $2.50 in 2021 and $3.50 in 2022, according to the BBB website.

“We’ve reduced operating costs as much as possible and now we have to bring in some additional revenue, and the only way to do that, unfortunately, is to raise fares,” he said.

Low-income customers, about 70 percent of MODE’s members, will be able to qualify for a $0.75 fare and discounts or free rides on the bus and train through an income verification process, King said. It currently costs $0.25 for a companion or personal care attendant to ride with a customer, but BBB is proposing eliminating that extra fee.

Reduced fares would increase to $1 in 2021 and $1.50 in 2022.

MODE is also planning to limit users to 36 rides per month instead of the current 40, a change that would only impact about five percent of customers but stabilize the program’s budget, King said. The service is working with WISE & Healthy Aging, which registers residents before they can use MODE, to make sure that customers who hail rides every day for social services or medical treatment will not be impacted by the cap on trips.

The final proposed change to the service is raising the minimum age requirement from 60 to 62 to align with regional age standards for reduced senior fares. Current members would be exempt from the new requirement.

The new fare and changes to the program will be presented to City Council in June, King said.


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