Lake County ride service is growing but still well below capacity

A Lake County program offering low-cost transportation to residents 60 and older and those with disabilities gave 27,000 rides to nearly 1,000 people in its first year, well below its capacity, which officials estimate at up to 59,000 rides.

Ride Lake County launched in May 2022 after a yearslong effort between government agencies and Pace Suburban Bus to consolidate existing transportation services. Fares are $2 for trips up to 5 miles, $4 for 5 to 10 miles, and $6 for 10 miles or more and trips need to either start or end in Lake County.

Alex Carr, the county's deputy communications officer, said the county's goal is to reach the 59,000-ride mark and noted the numbers are trending in the right direction. Of the 27,000 rides in the program's first year, Carr said, 10,000 rides were taken in the first six months and 17,000 in the second half. So far, nearly 31% of trips taken by riders were to work and 30% were for medical appointments, Carr said.

"We've been very grateful for all the partnerships we have in the community to help spread the word of Ride Lake County," Carr said, noting the county has worked with doctor's offices, municipalities and senior groups. "Our goal is to continue to grow the service each year until we meet or exceed that number (59,000)."

The program will have at least five more years to achieve its ridership goal. Lake County leaders have committed to paying their portion of the program through at least 2028, according to the long-term transportation plan county officials announced this week.

The county has budgeted up to $1 million annually for the program, but leaders hope to get federal grants to reduce their contribution to around $610,000 to $640,000 annually, Carr said.

Ride Lake County also is funded in part by grants from the Regional Transportation Authority.

The process to create Ride Lake County began in earnest in April 2019 when the Lake County Division of Transporation completed a paratransit market study. In May 2021, LCDOT was directed to develop a countywide service proposal, and four months later it was authorized to negotiate an agreement with Pace.

To take advantage of the service, riders first must register by calling (800) 201-6446. Anyone eligible can reserve a ride from two hours to seven days in advance.

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