16 December 1999

Committee Recommends Shifting TAXI Program Money
By Jon A. Brake

Last Tuesday night the Social Services Advisory Board gave it's Annual
Report to the Manhattan City Commission. The report was the result of site
team visits to the various social service agencies who received funding for
1999 and those that will receive funding in 2000.
The Commission, interested citizens and the media received the report in
the Commission packet  on Friday four days before the meeting. Missing from
the packet was a report on the City Taxi Program.
At the Get-A-Round meeting (the 5:30 meeting held to get around the Kansas
Open Meeting Act) the Commissioners received a report where the Committee
asked the Commission to do away with the program and give the money to ATA
Bus. Here is that report:
By Mary DeLuccie
The TAXI program is administered by the City Finance and        Customer
Service Departments           of the City of Manhattan with oversight
provided by the              SSAB.  Taxi services are provided by Yellow
Cab Company/Bell Taxi Trans., Inc. at a rate of $2.50 per one-way local
ride.            The program was established in the mid-1960's to provide
transportation for Manhattan's indigent elderly and disabled citizens.  At
that time, no other publicly-subsidized transportation programs existed
within the City.   Currently, Taxi Program clients purchase coupons  that
can be used for one-way trips within the City limits for $2 each.  After
use, coupons are redeemable by the taxi company for $2.50 each-an amount
which equals the coupon's purchase price plus a fifty cents per ride
subsidy supported by a City/SSAB annual appropriation.  The Taxi program
appropriation for 1999 is $10,500.
The TAXI Program's use peaked during January through October, 1996 when
approximately 2,000 coupons were sold and redeemed per month.
Unfortunately, since 1997 the program has experienced a significant decline
in use as judged by coupon sales and redemptions.  According to City
records, during the same 10-month period in 1998, 17,805 coupons were sold
and 17,633 were redeemed.  More than one-third of the riders (35%) in 1998
were elderly.  During the same time, the City's Customer Service Department
experienced a dramatic increase in Taxi Program client complaints.  These
complaints targeted the lack of promptness  of the Taxi Service response to
client calls, occasional lapses in driver and dispatcher civility, and the
overall cleanliness and maintenance of the vehicles used to provide the
services.  In 1999 (January through October), only 11,994 coupons were sold
and 11,933 were redeemed. During this past year, the percentage of elderly
riders fell to only 27%.  After remaining fairly constant, the number of
complaints has dropped off in 1999.
Over the past three years as usage of the City-supported Taxi program has
decreased by 25%, the ATA Bus Service has reported an increase in riders of
approximately 27%. According to Glen Nelson of ATA Bus, his new riders
report dissatisfaction with the City Taxi Program as a primary motive for
shifting to the ATA Bus System.  In addition, Riley County, which supports
a TAXI Program similar to the City's, reports that only two residents
currently use the taxi service and they make frequent complaints similar to
those listed previously.
The SSAB reiterates its earlier recommendation to the City that:
1) the City terminate its existing Taxi Program in an orderly manner as
soon as possible;
2) the City negotiate with the directors of the ATA Bus System to support
expansion of their program in order to provide transportation services to
the combined clieteles of the existing ATA Bus and City-sponsored TAXI
Programs.  The SSAB hopes that these negotiations will provide for
expansion of the ATA Bus Service to cover evening and week-end hours; and,
3) the reorganized ATA Bus System join the family of social service
agencies supported by annual City/SSAB appropriations.
SSAB anticipates that this plan would provide valuable transportation
services to the City's indigent elderly and disabled citizens.  This could
be accomplished by redirecting annual Taxi Program funds, as well as the
monies currently expended by the City's Finance and Customer Service
Departments to administer the program, into the annual ATA Bus
System/City-SSAB appropriation of approximately $20,000. The Board
recognizes that an important component of the negotiations between the City
and ATA Bus Board of Directors might involve City help in expanding the ATA
Bus fleet of vehicles.  In light of continuing Transportation 2000
discussions, the SSAB encourages the City to undertake this initial
investment of resources in order to meet the basic transportation needs of
an increasing segment of this community's citizens.