Thousands of low-income residents who use Sun Van might soon be asking themselves whether they should go to the doctor's office or the grocery store.
The transit service, used by people with physical and developmental disabilities, is asking its poorest riders to shoulder more of the cost of the service - proposing to triple the one-way fares over the course of the next 11 months.
The move would eventually phase out the economy fare altogether, forcing everyone using the service to pay the same price. Currently, the economy fare is $1 for each trip for those who qualify for the reduced fare. Full fare is $3 each way.
For a single person, those making less than $14,000 a year qualify. Sun Van officials said the transit service needs to recoup more of the cost in providing the service, estimating each of the 544,000 one-way trips it provided last year cost $28.75.
Sitting in a nearly empty conference room in the basement of the library last week, Barbara Macpherson tried to persuade Sun Van/Sun Tran officials the proposal was going to force thousands of elderly riders living on a fixed income to make some hard decisions about their daily travels.
Tapping her red and white cane, Macpherson said the blind and the visually impaired are completely dependent on the service, using the Sun Van service for medical appointments and buying groceries as well as to socialize.
"They use it for everything," she told staffers last week. "A lot of our community are on Social Security. They cannot afford it."
Patrick McCarthy of the Beacon Group calls the proposal "devastating" for many of Beacon's roughly 2,100 employees.
The business provides jobs for people with various levels of disabilities - a segment of the community where statistics suggest just 20 percent are employed.
The work - with income tied directly to productivity - allows some to make more than minimum wage. But others, due to limited abilities, make significantly less, McCarthy said.
The service is a "godsend" for the disabled, he said, but he doubts many can afford the proposed increase. He worries the increased fares will outweigh the incentive for many to report to their jobs.
The current proposal phases the economy fare increases over the course of the next 11 months. A $1 increase is scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 14 and another $1 increase is scheduled for next July 1.
Federal law limits the cost for Sun Van to twice the full-fare cost for Sun Tran.
The next public meeting on the proposed increase will be on Tuesday at the Beacon Group, 308 W. Glenn St., at 11 a.m.
DOWN THE ROAD
• Crews working for the Arizona Department of Transportation will continue paving 14 miles of westbound Interstate 10 east of Benson this week. Between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. throughout the week, drivers should expect temporary lane closures and traffic delays.
On StarNet: Read more Road Runner columns and updates. Go to azstarnet.com/roadrunner
Questions: Several Road Runner readers have asked why the city of Tucson has started to paint patches of city streets light green near various intersections.
Answer: The green patches of paint are for cyclists, primarily identifying where cyclists should ride or cross the tracks of the modern streetcar, said James MacAdam, a planning, transportation & sustainability policy adviser for Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. The tracks can be a hazard for cyclists, so the city has identified areas where it's safest to cross.
The paint is also used in some intersections, placed ahead of vehicles stopped at the red light, in order to make cyclists more visible to traffic.
Send your Road Q questions by email to email@example.com or to 4850 S. Park Ave., Tucson, AZ 85714. Please include first and last names.