New fares for dial-a-ride services throughout the region will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2010. That’s when the phase-in of restructured, region-wide Transit Link service throughout the seven-county metropolitan area will begin.
The Metropolitan Council approved the fares in November. The fare structure is the final standard operating guideline for the new region-wide dial-a-ride service.
Dial-a-ride service is minibus or van service for members of the general public. It is different from the ADA-certified services provided by Metro Mobility, which serves riders who need additional assistance due to physical, cognitive or psychological limitations. These dial-a-ride changes do not affect ADA transit service.
The new fares are based on the distance traveled. For trips less than 10 miles, passengers will pay $2.25 each way. For trips between 10 and 20 miles, the fare will be $4.50 each way. And for trips greater than 20 miles, riders will pay $6.75 each way. Transfers are free, and discounts are available for group trips. ADA-certified riders pay a maximum of $4.50 per direction, regardless of distance.
- Restructuring aims to make service equitable
The restructuring effort, which began in 2008, aimed to deliver dial-a-ride transit services that are equally available to all members of the general public throughout the seven-county metropolitan area where regular route transit service is not available. Dial-a-ride services are intended to supplement regular routes, rather than duplicate them.
In addition, the effort will establish a consistent set of operating parameters – such as a single phone number for reservations, consistent hours of operation and a uniform window for advanced trip reservations – for all providers throughout the region.
- Transition will take place over five months
The transition between current dial-a-ride providers and the switch to new Transit Link services will occur throughout the metro area over the first five months of 2010. New guidelines and fares will take effect in Anoka, Carver and Scott counties on Jan. 1, 2010. These three areas currently operate their own transit services and will continue to operate dial-a-ride services under the new structure.
In addition, four metro-area counties – Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, and Washington – have chosen the Metro Council to operate dial-a-ride services in their area. As contracts for service in these areas come up for renewal, vendors chosen will operate under the Transit Link parameters and fare structure. New contracts for these communities will be in place on the following timeline:
Feb. 1, 2010: Hennepin County
March 1, 2010: Ramsey and Washington counties
May 1, 2010: Dakota County
- Administrative effort will be streamlined
More than 450,000 riders used dial-a-ride services in the seven-county metro area during 2008. The Council provides about $5 million per year to dial-a-ride programs throughout the region, often augmented by local funding. Currently, nearly 20 different government and non-profit organizations provide the region’s dial-a-ride services. Once the transition is complete, Transit Link services will be provided through five contracts.
Each county has served on a coordinating advisory committee to recommend the new fares and operating parameters. In addition, counties will work collaboratively with the Council to manage Transit Link service and administer contracts.
- For riders, better access
Riders will be able to access any location in the metro area, either through Transit Link or a combination of Transit Link and regular transit routes. Today, many dial-a-ride services only provide trips within the boundaries of the service area, which limits where passengers can travel.
"The goal of the restructuring is to assure anyone in the region has access to transit services, whether via Transit Link or regular-route transit,” Bell said. “We needed to provide greater consistency to assure rides are available to the general public.”
The Council will continue working with communities to assure a smooth transition to the new Transit Link service. Events will be planned to help existing riders and new riders understand the new service and to gain a comfort level both with Transit Link and with regular transit service.