The Journal News | LoHud.com |
Written by Ken Valenti
Starting this month, passengers of Westchester’s ParaTransit service for the disabled will be able to choose a discounted taxi ride rather than sharing a van when traveling in White Plains. The one-year pilot program is expected to save the county $300,000, and is one of two ways the county plans to cut costs on transportation for the disabled. Smaller, more fuel-efficient vans are also expected to bring savings. “We know how much people rely on our ParaTransit system, and these two changes will help our riders by providing more options on service,” said County Executive Rob Astorino. “This is an example of how smart actions by government can deliver better service at a lower cost.”
Melvyn Tanzman, executive director of Westchester Disabled on the Move, praised the moves, saying cost savings are needed “mainly because we don’t want to see cuts to service and things like that. And we realize that with the budget as it is, everything is at risk.” He said disabled riders who can take taxis may find them more comfortable and efficient than the vans. “We believe that as much as possible, when people with disabilities can be mainstreamed into regular forms of transportation, that should be done,” he said.
If the taxi pilot plan, called “Bee-Line Taxi,” works in White Plains, it can be expanded to other areas. Under the plan, a passenger will pay the same $4 that he or she would pay for a ride in one of the vans. But while each ride given in the vans costs the county an average of $50, officials project that they will cover an average of $10 for each van ride. By taking the taxi, the passenger gets to ride alone rather than sharing a van with other passengers, making several stops along the way, said Evan Latainer, executive director of the county’s Office for the Disabled.
Latainer said the county will contract with three cab companies -one main company and two back-ups. He said the county is talking with cab companies, but would not say which ones they were because the contracts had not yet been signed. The smaller vans, seating three people, cost about $24,000 each, as opposed to $60,000 to $65,000 for the others. The county recently had 30 of the new ones delivered. At the same time, the county will retain many of its full-sized ParaTransit vans, particularly for passengers in wheelchairs and others who need the mechanical lift, Laitainer said.