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updated: 8/14/2014 5:02 PM

Elgin looks at limiting senior rides

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The city of Elgin is looking at cutting back its Ride in Kane program by restricting rides to work, medical appointments, grocery stores and pharmacies starting Oct. 1.

The city council's committee of the whole voted 7-1 Wednesday to approve the measure, which will move to the full council Aug. 27.

The program, a partnership between Pace Suburban Bus Service and Kane County agencies, provides low-cost transportation to seniors and disabled residents.

Each participating municipality subsidizes rides for its own residents. Pace had requested $196,000 this year from Elgin -- nearly double the city's contribution in 2012 -- anticipating rising costs and growing ridership.

Council members questioned the projected cost increase, which is disproportionate to the projected rider increase, and instead approved spending $135,000, equivalent to last year's expense.

Currently, Elgin riders can get unlimited rides, including to schools, libraries and social activities including volunteer service, veterans' organizations and family visits.

Senior Services Associates, which administers the program in Elgin, recommended limiting, but not eliminating, the number of nonessential rides for the rest of the year with a plan to eliminate them in 2015.

Cutting that for the rest of the year would be "devastating" for seniors, said Senior Services Associates Chief Administrative Officer Beth McClory.

"When we say 'social' it doesn't mean they are going out dancing at night," she said. "It can mean a spouse going to visit their husband in the hospital and nursing home."

Elgin's senior and disabled population has grown steadily in the last couple of years, McClory said.

Councilman Rich Dunne said his mother uses the Ride in Kane program. "I'd be more willing to support trips within Elgin to support businesses," he said.

Putting limits on the number and type of rides is not unusual. For example, Geneva limits the program to 30 one-way rides each month, while South Elgin, limits rides for medical appointments, work and job training.

The increase in Ride in Kane's costs is "disconcerting," said councilman Terry Gavin, who cast the only dissenting vote.

"I think other communities are actually doing the right thing limiting it only to medical and other needed trips to get a handle on this cost."

City Manager Sean Stegall said a look at rider data show social rides are about 18 percent of trips; with trips to the library, school and other miscellaneous destinations, that rises to 26 percent, he said.

Stegall pointed out social activities can be part of seniors' overall care. "I could not find a single trip anyone would have an issue with," he said.

Mayor David Kaptain had proposed waiting on enacting restrictions until the city council can review the results of a Regional Transit Authority study about the Ride in Kane program and its costs. That study likely won't be done until next spring.

"This is an extremely sensitive issue for the community," Kaptain said. "I think we have to be cognizant of that."

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