Seniors and the disabled in Elgin may still use the Ride in Kane program for social activities for at least the rest of the year.
The Elgin City Council this week reversed an earlier committee decision by voting 6-3 to fully fund the program until the Regional Transit Authority finalizes a study examining the program's increasing costs. That is expected about the middle of next year, City Manager Sean Stegall said.
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Councilmembers Toby Shaw, John Prigge and Terry Gavin voted against the measure.
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.
Earlier this month, council members voted to restrict rides to work, medical appointments, grocery stores and pharmacies starting Oct. 1.
The council's reversal came after Elgin resident Theresa Boksa, who uses a wheelchair due to a neurological disease, pleaded with the council to continue allowing social rides.
"Using the paratransit system is the only way I could be transported, and it helped me continue being a productive member of the community," said Boksa, who also works in Elgin.
She asked that the council consider limiting, rather than eliminating, social rides, "so that those of us who have no other options can visit with their family, not be alone at holidays, be with their family and friends in a hospital or nursing home, attend a funeral or celebrate a birth."
The program -- also funded by federal money -- will cost an estimated $200,000 this year in Elgin, more than double its 2012 expense. Eliminating social rides would have saved about $65,000 this year.
Council members had questioned the cost increase, which is higher than the projected rider increase.
"I think we are getting taken advantage of by Pace and the Ride in Kane program and whoever else is responsible," Gavin said.
Mayor David Kaptain pushed fellow council members to continue funding the program until the RTA study is ready.
"We are thrilled," said Senior Services Associates Chief Administrative Officer Beth McClory.
Many of the agency's clients use the program for wellness-related activities, she said, pointing out Elgin Township doesn't provide its own bus service, unlike others like Dundee Township.
This year's $200,000 expense will be funded by general fund reserves. The city will determine later how to fund the program next year.