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Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Public Works Commission Recommends Increase in Local Dial-A-Ride Charges

• Popular Program Is Funded by Prop A Dollars to City

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu Public Works Commission, which met on Wednesday afternoon last week, recommended raising the fees for the Dial-A-Ride service program.
Following the staff recommendation, the commission is urging the city council to increase the fee for rides $2 per one-way trip within the city limits and $4 per one-way trip to Santa Monica and West Los Angeles.
The recommendation also includes using the remaining Proposition A funding to pay for occasional shuttle services for senior center programs.
The panel also recommended the city execute an agreement with Malibu Yellow Cab to continue to provide its services.
The program is offered to residents living in the city who are 60 years of age or older. The cab fare is currently $1 each way within city limits. The service will take seniors to Santa Monica, St John’s and UCLA hospitals and various medical offices along Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards for currently $2 each way, according to the city’s website.
There are scheduled shuttles between Malibu and Santa Monica and West Los Angeles. The hospitals and medical offices are the only locations outside of the city limits that DAR will service.
The service was established to help the senior population with transportation to doctor appointments, markets or the senior center as well as other destinations within Malibu city limits.
The story about making changes starts three years ago when some council members complained that too much Prop A funds were not being used and had to be sold on the dollar so they were not completely lost.
The Public Works Commission was given the task of trying to determine if a potential shuttle service or other ways could be used for utilizing the transportation funding, according to the staff.
“After careful analysis of the city’s Proposition A funds and the city’s Proposition A funded Dial-A-Ride program, the commissioners noted that expenses for the city’s popular DAR program had substantially increased in recent years while the Proposition A revenue had remained relatively constant.
“Commissioners expressed concern that the city did not have sufficient Proposition A funds to support an additional shuttle or transit related service despite the discontinuance of the Proposition A funded Point Dume Nature Preserve Shuttle in 2011,” the staff report states. The unpopular ride was also known as the “ghost shuttle” for its lack of riders.
After the March 23, 2011 meeting, the commission agreed to table the discussion of Prop A funds until after the contract with a new vendor for the ride program had been executed.
A request for proposal for DAR services was initially distributed in early 2011. “While reviewing the proposal, staff determined that the program needed to be reevaluated to better meet the needs of the community,” wrote a public works analyst.
During that time, staff in the Parks and Recreation Department had worked with a transit consultant to perform a comprehensive review of the DAR program “to ensure that the program provides the greatest public benefit at the lowest cost.”
Extensive outreach to community members including the current and potential DAR participants was undertaken to determine transit need. Outreach efforts included focus groups, questionnaires and interviews, according to staffers.
Then this is what happened: The Public Works Commission continued to monitor the program and receive updates. By June 2012, the Public Works Commission passed a motion to suggest that the Parks and Recreation Department consider a fee increase.
Parks and Recreation Director Bob Stallings put a package together including the fee hikes and told the commission they could consider a graduated fee, but it was ultimately determined that any of it or all of it was “too onerous to implement.”
Subsequently, a revised RFP went out and the city received only one proposal. Staff reviewed the proposal, conducted an interview with the firm but was unable to negotiate a contract with the vendor.
The staff, at that point, recommended negotiating a new contract with the city’s current DAR provider, Malibu Yellow Cab.
City officials had been told by Dial-A-Ride participants they were “very pleased” with the current level of service provided by the cab company.
“Staff is confident that executing a new contract with cost-saving measures including the elimination of the current gas surcharge will reduce the overall DAR budget. Staff recommends using the remaining Proposition A funding to fund shuttle services for senior center programs,” the staff analyst wrote.

Dial-A-Ride Continues to Pass Fiscal Tests

The Public Works Commission, while keeping an eye on the expenses of the city’s Dial-A-Ride program for several months, continued to review updates on the DAR program, which had initially experienced rising costs with the perceived potential for dwindling revenue from Prop A funds. However, that never seemed to be the case.
Commissioners were told during the month of January, 2012, the DAR program provided approximately 426 passenger trips and collected $603 in passenger fees. The total expenditures for DAR services during January was approximately $14,394. The revenue from Prop A during the time period, according to city officials was approximately $14,873.
The city undertook a Dial-A-Ride expenditures analysis for nearly half the fiscal year 2012-13. Commissioners were shown the details of that analysis attached to the update.
The analysis shows that the city collected $143,309 of Prop A revenue for a little over the first half of the fiscal year and paid the service provider a total of $112, 644.
There were a total of 3,405 passenger trips for the seven-month span comprising a total of 44,723 passenger miles traveled.
The total fees collected from passengers was $4,947.
Other previous updates showed approximately the same fiscal results, so much so, that apparently there are enough Prop A funds for another transit service for seniors.
The Prop A funding is generated by a local tax on gasoline sales in Los Angeles County and allocated to cities on a per capita basis. The funding is administered by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and is intended to fund transit related programs.

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