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Indiana bus service for disabled, elderly faces funding woes

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) – A shuttle bus service faces an uncertain future in a cash-strapped southwestern Indiana county where disabled and elderly residents have relied on it for nearly a decade.

Vanderburgh County has had a contract since 2006 with the Metropolitan Evansville Transit System’s METS Mobility bus service. But that contract expires June 30 and county commissioners aren’t sure they can afford to keep it running.

The commissioners rescinded a proposed tripling of bus fees last week, after they had agreed in December to a fee increase from $5 to $15 per ride. Riders pay up front, and commissioners had assumed they don’t.

Commissioners President Joe Kiefer told the Evansville Courier & Press that the board is “open to ideas and potential solutions.” He said commissioners asked the county attorney to meet with shuttle officials.

“There’s got to be some solution out there,” Kiefer said.

Evansville transportation director Todd Robertson said the bus service’s costs have soared with its increasing ridership. The shuttle bus service provided more than 5,300 ride trips last year, up from about 3,600 the previous year.

Robertson said other groups have dropped transportation services due to high costs, likely increasing use of the METS Mobility shuttle service. Last year’s tough winter also could have played a part in higher demand, he said.

The service is open to people who are at least 65 years old or can’t use the METS fixed-route service because of a disability. There are 14 buses in the METS Mobility service, and they can hold five wheelchairs and eight riders.