The Pleasanton City Council will face choices listed in a two-year study to improve door-to-door public ride services from Pleasanton Paratransit and Wheels Dial-a-Ride.

The council set its May 7 meeting to receive the report. However, a public hearing considering implementation of the recommendations outlined in the document won’t be held until a meeting later this year.

The document also will be heard by several of the Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority (LAVTA) committees and at their board meeting, as potential plans are brought forward for consideration, according to Becky Hopkins, Pleasanton Assistant to the City Manager.

The Mobility Forward study was conducted by consultant Nelson/Nygaard. It was commissioned by the City of Pleasanton and the Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority (LAVTA). The city operates Pleasanton Paratransit. LAVTA operates Wheels Dial-a-Ride in Dublin and Livermore, as well as the fixed route bus system in the two cities and Pleasanton. It also runs Dial-a-Ride in Pleasanton when Pleasanton Paratransit is closed.

Pleasanton offers two door-to-door services under the Pleasanton Paratransit Program. One is an ADA Paratransit service for disabled Pleasanton and Sunol residents 18 years of age and above. They are eligible if they meet requirements set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and complete a certification process and application.

The other service is a Senior Transportation service that takes passengers on the same buses who are 70 years or older. They use the service to reach destinations such as the Pleasanton Senior Center, doctor appointments, and shopping inside the Pleasanton city limits. Typically, such patrons may not be able to afford cars, have given up their drivers’ licenses, or live too far from a Wheels bus stop to have the energy to walk to and from there, especially with packages.

Wheels Dial-a-Ride offers door-to-door service only to residents who are ADA-certified. It can pick up Pleasanton residents outside of the hours of operation for Pleasanton Paratransit. In Dublin and Livermore, it serves the communities during its own normal hours.

Pleasanton Paratransit offers service only on weekdays, from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wheels Dial-a-Ride runs seven days a week, from 4 a.m. to 1 a.m., the same hours as Wheels’ fixed-route buses.

One vision for Pleasanton Paratransit is that it would be open for all residents over 70, including those with disabilities. However, it will not be a service intended to comply with the ADA paratransit requirements for people with disabilities – that will be LAVTA’s responsibility, said Hopkins.

Use of Wheels Dial-a-Ride in Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore has increased steadily over the past six years, rising from 44,500 trips in Fiscal Year 2011-12, to 58,700 in 2015-16, before a drop in the following Fiscal Year to 54,100 trips the last available year in the study.

In contrast, Pleasanton Paratransit started with 11,600 trips in 2011-12, and steadily declined to 7,100 trips in 2016-17.

The report recommends that Pleasanton Paratransit continue to provide the Senior Transportation service, and focus on publicizing it to boost ridership. Pleasanton should also reduce the number of Full Time Equivalents staffing of the department from 8+ to something less, try to eliminate some part-time positions, in order to hire more full-time drivers to reduce turnover, and consider contracting out personnel. Contracting out workers would reduce costs, since several personnel are full-time city employees eligible for fringe benefits.

The study expresses skepticism that Pleasanton operates Paratransit in one area as well as it claims — on-time pickups. The report notes that Pleasanton Paratransit has an “on-time performance of 100% (or very close to that percentage). “Industry standards show that this is extremely unlikely, given the lack of control over certain circumstances,” says the study.

The report suggests the decline in ridership might be caused by what it says is a poorer than reported on-time record. It does not offer any evidence of this conclusion.

Pleasanton Paratransit has surveyed its riders over the years and informed them of the results in printed newsletters. That data shows 100% on-time service, or very close to it.

SUNOL WOULD NEED NEW FUNDING

One potential consequence of the study could be the loss of paratransit transportation for people with disabilities in Sunol. Pleasanton provides ADA service to Sunol residents. Merging Pleasanton Paratransit with Wheels may eliminate Sunol service unless additional funding is identified, said Hopkins.

Before any change in service delivery is recommended to the Pleasanton City Council and the LAVTA Board, staff from both agencies will work together to address such concerns to ensure that Tri-Valley residents who are qualified have access to ADA Paratransit Service.