On March 1, changes to the Greensboro Transit Agency’s paratransit service, Access GSO, went into effect for the premium service area.
At the Greensboro City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 2, a number of people spoke about the hardship the changes were creating for paratransit riders.
At that meeting, Director of the Greensboro Department of Transportation Hanna Cockburn explained some of the reasons that adjustments had to be made.
On March 1, Access GSO, Greensboro’s paratransit service formerly known as SCAT, changed the service provided for riders in the premium service area on weekends and on weekdays from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. During those hours GTA is no longer providing Access GSO service in the premium areas but does provide I-Ride, which is more like an Uber service. The charge for the shared ride service Access GSO is $1.50 per trip. The minimum cost for I-Ride is $6 and can increase based on the length of the trip and on whether the rider uses a wheelchair.
According to the American with Disabilities Act, GTA is required to provide paratransit service within three-quarters of a mile of its bus routes but is not required to provide paratransit service outside of that area.
Cockburn noted that in 2007 the Greensboro City Council decided to provide paratransit service, then called SCAT, anywhere in the city limits of Greensboro.
The area outside the three-quarters of a mile of a bus route is considered the “premium service area” and this is the only area effected by the March 1 change.
Cockburn also explained the reason for the adjustment is that the paratransit service currently accounts for over 40 percent of the GTA budget.
The paratransit service costs on average over $400,000 a month.
In a memo to the City Council, Cockburn states that the long term plan is to transition all trips in the premium service area to I-Ride during Access GSO operating hours effective July 1, 2021 as a cost saving measure.
Cutting back on Access GSO service hours in the premium service area is considered a pilot project in preparation for the July 1 change when Access GSO service will be discontinued in the premium service area and only the more expensive I-Ride service will be provided in that area.
Cockburn also said that premium service paratransit riders are eligible to receive services from the Guilford County Transportation and Mobility Services (TAMS), so there were options other than I-Ride for those in the premium service area.