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Reduced funding and increased operating costs create challenges for SLO's Ride-On

Posted at 6:08 PM, Feb 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-25 03:12:36-05

Ride-On offers transportation to people in San Luis Obispo County such as those with disabilities, along with veterans and seniors.

Providing these public transportation services has become more challenging due to increased costs of labor, gas, and health benefits.

"Gas prices are uncertain, wages are going up, but also too the fact that it's hard to be non-profit and have 700 rides a day," said Bob Armstrong, Ride-On Transportation's Transportation Management Association Coordinator.

The increased costs to operate have become harder for Ride-On after the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) changed how they fund the non-profit.

"We had a human services plan that recommended that we go away from a block grant program with Ride-On and fund specific services so we can target seniors, low income families, and people with disabilities," said Peter Rogers, SLOCOG.

Specific funding and SLOCOG realizing an increased need for senior transportation in the county, led them to take bids from companies who could fill those needs.

However, Ride-On wasn't chosen for that role, even after doing so for years, leading to a drop in funding.

According to Mark Schaefer, Ride-On CEO, SLOCOG funded $550,000 to Ride-On in 2017-2018 compared to only $215,000 for the upcoming year.

Despite less financial support, Ride-On is confident they'll be able to weather the storm by leaning on other services, such as wedding and special event shuttles.

"Anywhere where we can make income we're looking at that now because we have to be, because as we lose these services that we can do, we got to figure out any way we can to continue doing the services that we're doing," Armstrong said.

Earlier this month, Ride-On was looking for a one-time payment of $100,000 from SLOCOG to make up for the loss of funding, but the request was unanimously denied.

In response, Rogers said SLOCOG was not in a financial position three quarters into the fiscal year to be able to grant Ride-On's request.