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Claremont’s Dial-A-Ride system could undergo a big overhaul

Following a report by a third-party group, the city is planning to improve a number of aspects of the transportation system, including a single phone number for all inquiries, a new website and a new driver.

The plans were presented to the Community and Human Services Commission on Wednesday, June 7. The commission passed the plans unanimously, directing them to be sent to the city council for final approval.

The plans, presented by Management Analyst Cari Dillman of the Community Services Department, were borne from an outside assessment by AMMA Transit Planning into how the city could improve its Dial-A-Ride program. The Pomona Valley Transportation Authority (PVTA) operates the program.

According to Ms. Dillman, AMMA noted four areas of improvement—customer service, service capacity and on-time performance, expansion of service and the addition of a smartphone app.

All items, except for the smartphone app, are set to be implemented by the city pending council approval.

The plans were previously presented to the Traffic and Transportation Commission (TTC) on May 25, where it passed with a 4-2 vote.

The assessment, Ms. Dillman noted, also found that information about the Dial-A-Ride service was hard to find among the several phone numbers used for each part of the service.

“The main thing is that it’s very confusing,” she said. “It’s all there, it’s just hard to get to it.”

The solution: a single telephone number to cover all possible inquiries, whether it be registering for the service, requesting a ride, giving feedback or making a complaint.

Importantly, the city will also hire a new driver to take the load off peak hours. According to the minutes from the TTC meeting, Commissioner Walter Farmer had reservations about long wait times for pick-ups, noting residents at the Claremont Villa senior apartments were waiting exorbitant amounts of time for a ride.

While Ms. Dillman noted AMMA found current Dial-A-Ride vans have a 95 percent on-time rate, she acknowledged punctuality during peak hours has still been a problem.

Resident Jackie Jeffress, during public comment at the May 25 TTC meeting, noted things had gotten worse when PVTA contracted with American Cab for the Dial-A-Ride two years ago.

Community Services Director Roger Bradley said in a phone interview that the extra driver was hired to alleviate some of the delays. While the driver will be dedicated to Claremont only, they will still be an employee of PVTA and American Cab, which has one year left on its contract.

The new driver will be paid $35,000 a year, according to the city.

The city and PVTA are also creating a part-time mobility manager position to field calls from customers, at a cost of about $10,000 annually, Ms. Dillman said.

The city also wants to establish its own transportation website, GoClaremont.com, that will give information to seniors and other Claremonters about where to go and how to get there.

“Instead of knowing what service you want to use to get where you want to, we’re going to ask you where you want to go and tell you what service to use,” Ms. Dillman said.

The creation of the website will cost the city a one-time $60,000 fee, plus an annual maintenance fee of $10,000, according to the city. The website would serve as a possible precursor to a Dial-A-Ride mobile phone app, which the city is not recommending at this point, Ms. Dillman said.

Other improvements include re-branding the Dial-A-Ride vehicles with the same forest green shade as the sanitation trucks, and Ms. Dillman noted that the city would update the printed material to make the brochures, “more clear, less wordy and less heavy.”

The program is also increasing its hours, adding a Sunday service from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and expanding their Monday to Saturday service from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Currently, fares are $2.50 a ride for the general public and $1.50 for seniors. The rates reflect a 2015 fare increase of about a dollar for each category. Mr. Bradley explained the service was so popular, the fee increase was implemented as a way to curb the amount of people using the service.

“It was so cheap and it was used by so many people, it was almost overused,” he said.

The total budget with the staff’s recommendation would amount to $732,000, Ms. Dillman said, all fully funded by the city’s transportation funds through Proposition A, as well as various grants.

The commission was impressed with the report. Chair Butch Henderson, who made the motion to approve the recommendation, was the most vocal in his support.

“It seems to me that it depresses a lot of complaints and problems that I hear,” he said. “It’s well overdue.”

The next step is for the plans to be heard by the city council.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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