Council support remains high on Londonderry’s CART program despite low ridershipBy CHRIS GAROFOLO
Union Leader Correspondent
January 17. 2018 11:42PM
LONDONDERRY — The Londonderry Town Council this week strongly backed a supplemental transportation program designed for senior and low-income commuters, although ridership numbers have been low during the inaugural six months.
Assistant Town Manager Lisa M. Drabik said the pilot program’s partner CART (Cooperative Alliance for Regional Transportation) provided 1,150 rides to 31 unduplicated Londonderry riders from July to December. CART referred five rides to the town senior center, meaning there were only five requests the transportation agency could not accommodate.
“That statistically is less than one-half of one percent of the rides requested if you do the numbers,” Drabik told the council on Monday.
Of those five rides, one was referred to an outside nonprofit and four were booked with Green Cab, a taxi service based in town that is participating in the pilot program. Three of those four rides were the same person, so two people made use of Green Cab rides during the pilot program.
“I have spoken with some citizens, mostly senior citizens, who have expressed differing opinion. On one side, some have expressed the opinion that the town doesn’t need to spend any additional funds on the issue and that we’ve seemed to remedy any problems that we may have had with CART during the pilot program,” Drabik said. “And the other side, I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that senior transportation continues to be an issue of concern for seniors in the town.”
Supported by voters with a $35,000 article in 2017 to supplement transportation costs, the program is a partnership with CART and Green Cab. While CART provides transportation for those in need of a ride within its service area of Londonderry, Chester, Derry, Hampstead and Salem, the supplemental program gives a lift for low-income or elderly resident who must use the taxi service because CART cannot accommodate their needs.
With the town program, Londonderry will pay the full fare for all potential CART riders who used Green Cab.
The program started on July 1 and was extended twice, once in August and again during the holidays. Drabik said the program was extensively promoted through local cable and print outlets, postcard mailings and fliers.
In total, the advertising costs were higher ($885) than the cab fare amount ($139).
While the ridership numbers are low, the council gave the program high marks.
“This was a tremendous success, and I want to just tell the public that there were … way more than five people who were not getting the transportation they needed,” said council member Joe Green. “We brought transportation to the people who most needed it, in my opinion.”
Drabik and Town Manager Kevin Smith were directed by the council to come back with a recommendation on maintaining the program and how to use the remaining funds, which are still more than $30,000.
Among the options discussed were contracting directly with Green Cab on a fixed rate so the money can continue to go to good use, or potentially have it tossed into the unassigned fund balance.
“My point of view is that there’s things our seniors need all the time, and it’s not limited to rides,” said council Vice-chairman John Farrell. “And I think that we, the town council, should trust the town manager and the assistant town manager to continue to use these funds to help that community.”