The Chicago Transit Board today approved an ordinance that will help offset the effect of the taxicab fare increase on its Mobility Direct customers and maintain the current level of service. By increasing the zone flat rate paid by CTA, Mobility Direct customers will continue to pay $1.75 per trip although taxicab fares in Chicago increased by 11.7 percent this week.
Mobility Direct is a subscription taxicab service used by paratransit customers who are certified by the Regional Transportation Authority. Paratransit customers who take regularly scheduled trips pay $1.75 per trip and the CTA pays a flat rate based on distance for the balance of the trip. Mobility Direct was introduced in 2002 as an expansion of the CTA's Taxi Access Program (TAP). Unlike TAP, vouchers are not required to participate in Mobility Direct, customers make standing reservations for recurring trips.
?Today's action helps to maintain the number of taxicabs that provide Mobility Direct services for our paratransit customers," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. ?Without the subsidy, the increase in taxicab fares would reduce the willingness of taxicab drivers to participate in the program."
During 2004, the CTA spent a total of $1.8 million for just over 124,000 Mobility Direct Trips for paratransit customers. This amounts to 55 percent of the cost of providing the same trips through Special Services, which would have cost the CTA $3.2 million. Approximately 98 percent of Mobility Direct customers previously relied on Special Services for their transportation needs.
?Mobility Direct is a very successful program and helps CTA keep the cost of providing paratransit services down," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?Costs for providing paratransit services have nearly doubled in the past five years and CTA receives no dedicated funding for these federally required services."
The subsidy increase will add approximately $200,000 to the $1.7 million cost of providing Mobility Direct services each year, but maintaining the affordability and availability of the service will help to retain customers who use the service.
Retaining these customers within the Mobility Direct program will save the CTA an average of $10 per ride, or $1.2 million per year over the cost of Special Services.
TAP has been operated jointly by the CTA and the City of Chicago since 1991; at that time the voucher had a value of $10. The TAP voucher value increased to $12 in December 2000, and after being approved by the Chicago Transit Board at its April meeting increased again to $13.50 effective May 11 to offset the taxicab fare increase. The estimated annual cost of the most recent increase to the TAP reimbursement level is $822,000 assuming all TAP customers take advantage of the change.
TAP ridership, including Mobility Direct, increased by 30 percent in February 2004, compared to February of the previous year. In February 2005, ridership increased by another 27 percent compared to February 2004.
The City of Chicago made TAP participation mandatory for all Chicago cab companies in November 2000. The Department of Consumer Services has regulatory and enforcement authority over the cab companies.
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