Susan and Jeff Williams

Susan and Jeff Williams address Town Council on the need for paratransit in Gilbert.

Residents who take paratransit can weigh in on a proposal to scale back the ride service for the disabled.

Instead of paratransit provided town-wide, the Dial-a-Ride service would be limited to within three-quarters of a mile of all local bus routes. If the change is approved, it would take effect Oct. 26. 

“I’m one-eighth of a mile too far outside the boundary,” said Susan Williams, who spoke at the December town council meeting accompanied by her guide dog. “That would affect me, my ability to get to and from work and serve my community.”

The 20-year Gilbert resident, who is an academic liaison in the Supported Education Program at Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix, said she wasn’t always blind.  

“I lost my vision about 15 years ago,” she said. “I had normal vision all my life, drove and ran a business, raised my children and my vision slipped.

“I’m asking you to be mindful when this decision comes about, to think about the population of people this is going to impact. Keep in mind, this population of people has no other choice to get about.”

The town wants riders to take RiderChoice instead, which is cheaper for Gilbert to operate but costs residents more to ride than paratransit.

RideChoice serves all ADA-certified residents throughout Gilbert.

Jeff Williams credited paratransit for enabling his wife to get to where she is today.

He said options such as RideChoice doesn’t work for someone who has to commute daily to work or to school.

RideChoice costs $3 for each trip up to 8 miles, with any additional miles costing $2 per mile. Paratransit costs $4 for a one-way trip.

Factors such as a growing aging population and rising service cost mean the town will face between an estimated $550,000 and $700,000 deficit annually for the paratransit service if nothing is done, according to a five-year budget forecast. 

If the program is scaled back, it was expected to affect 297 riders, according to the town last year.

If the town decided to keep the status quo, it would need to take money from the general fund for the program’s deficit, according to staff.   

The federally mandated paratransit program offers door-to-door service for individuals who are certified with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act and can’t use a conventional bus.

Federal law requires the service be provided within three-fourth of a mile of all fixed-route bus stops. 

RideChoice is a discounted service with access to Lyft, taxis and wheel-chair accessible vehicles and is not mandated.

The town contracts with Valley Metro to provide both services.