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RVTD's planned cut is major blow

Editorial

Perhaps local governments can help cover change to Valley Lift service

The Rogue Valley Transportation District board will soon consider ending a pair of programs that have too few riders for the cost they incur.

That may seem like a no-brainer to some: If the program can't pay its way, cut it loose.

But it's no small thing to the seniors, disabled and low-income people who depend on the services. For them, it will be a major blow.

Those of us who have the least are losing the most, said one rider. That's why the shopper bus is so important.

Budget problems and low ridership have prompted RVTD to consider ending its Senior Shopper and Jobs Express programs. The two programs, which serve the poor, disabled and elderly, are slated to end after June 25.

RVTD General Manager Peter Jacobsen says that many of the displaced riders will be able to use the Valley Lift program, a federally mandated ridership program for disabled people. But the cost is &

36;2 a ride compared with 50 cents for the Senior Shopper.

— RVTD is caught in the middle. No one can reasonably expect the bus service to provide a program that it can't pay for without eating into its basic services. These kinds of programs are falling by the wayside in all social service arenas, as governments and agencies reduce their costs to match reductions in funding.

RVTD's funding problems for the two programs stem from the loss of a &

36;100,000 state grant and a huge drop in federal funds ' RVTD is getting half of the &

36;1.4 million it used to receive annually for its programs.

RVTD officials say that ridership in both the shopper and the jobs programs has been low, with the vans sometimes carrying only one or two people.

But, whether it's one or two, or a full busload, the cutbacks will reduce the quality of life of the former riders.

This sort of cutback is not unusual for transportation programs in smaller communities like Medford. Mass transit is tough to pull off, even in a big city. That makes these kinds of cost-effective van services even more essential.

We can't expect RVTD alone to carry the burden of keeping such a service alive. Perhaps there's an option for reducing rates even further on the Valley Lift program for the most needy or maybe local governments would consider stepping in with some small grants to give their citizens the freedom of movement that is so important in the quality of anyone's life.