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'there's Never A Dull Moment' On Dial-a-ride Bus

'there's Never A Dull Moment' On Dial-a-ride Bus image 'there's Never A Dull Moment' On Dial-a-ride Bus image
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"There's never a dull moment on Dial-A-Ride. There's always a cali somewhere." Gladys Pressley, one of the drivers for the city's experimental transportation innovation, was commenting about her job. And after spending part of a recent afternoon ambling around the city in one of t h e Dial-A-Ride vans, this reporter agrees with her. There really never was a dull moment. The two-way radio crackled almost continuously as the dispatcher directed Mrs. Pressley to various destinations to piek up passengers. The project provides doorstep service for people living generally in the southwest area of the city - and all for only 60 cents a ride (oneway). Passes also are available for $10 a month, though that cost will be hiked to $15 monthly, beginning Tuesday. Who uses Dial-A-Ride? A variety of people, it seems. The majority probably are workers who use the vans as transportation to their jobs. Others are housewives running errands or coming downtown to shop. Students also make use of the service. Many people use Dial-A-Ride on a daily basis. Others use it "as a back-up only when the car breaks down," according to Mike Berla of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. Dial-A-Ride - which is a one-year experimental project - is a service of the AATA. lts primary objective is to get people out of their own cars and relieve congestión on city streets. It was a raw, rainy day the afternoon I was a Dial-A-Ride passenger, and the chilled riders were more than happy to see the 12-passenger van arrive. Marguerite Harrison, a grey-haired woman from Ypsilanti who is a nurses' aide at University Hospital, mentioned that there is very little waiting for the I vans. "When they teil you it will be 5 or L 6 minutes, they're right on time. That's great in this kind of weather," she said. "I think it's a wonderful service," Miss Harrison commented. Before DialA-Ride began Sept. 22, the aide took a Greyhound bus from Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor, then a taxi from the bus station to the hospital. But Dial-A-Ride is considerably cheaper, she says. Magda Herkhof of 901 Fifth St., also had high words of praise for Dial-ARide. "It is quite convenient and very good service," she said. Magda rides the van daily to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and back, where she is employed in the housekeeping división. She has a standing order to be picked up each morning at her home shortly after 6:30 a.m. (Dial-A-Ride operates from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and until 9 p.m. on Friday). A Washtenaw Community College student, blonde Nancy Amerman of 2006 Brampton Court, told The News she likes Dial-A-Ride, too, and rides the vans home from school each day. She is picked up in front of Woolworth's on Main St. - one of the main pickup points in the city - after taking a regular bus from WCC to Main St. Before the new service began, Miss Amerman's mother drove to the school daily to piek up her daughter. And that cost a lot in gas money. Gheerful and efficiënt Mrs. Pressley says she receives "very good comments" about Dial-A-Ride from her passengers. "It's really handy to be able to get a ride downtown and not have to worry about parking," she declared. "The people think it's quite convenient." Berla says the AATA considers the four-month-old project a "qualified suo cess." Approximately 200 passengers per day or 1,200 per week use the service. But Dial-A-Ride is not making any money. Berla says it was not expected to, especially not in the first year. It is, in fact, running a deficit, which Berla says was expected. Fares are paying for only 40 per cent of the Dial-A-Ride costs, though Berla expects that percentage to increase soon when certain modifications probably will be made to increase ridership during the non-peak hours. The rest of the service is being financed by a ?56,000 state grant plus a $10,000 city grant. The total one-year budget is about $100,000. Berla emphasized, however, that "when you talk about public transportation breaking even, you're talking in ant terms. There are many spin-off benefits which accrue to the city when people ride a bus instead of their own car, such as less polluton and traffic." Dial-A-Ride's deficit is running a bit higher than expected during the first six months of the project, though AATA officials anticípate it will run lower than expected during the second six months. Dial-A-Ride is funded through Sept. 15 of this year. After that, what will happen? Berla says its's hard to predict, though he feels there's a. "good chance" of the service being extended beyond that date if Gov. William Milliken's proposed transportation package is approved by the Legislature. (That bill calis for a 2-cent-per-gallon increase on gas, half a cent of which would go to city mass transit systems). "If it doesn't go through, Dial-A-Ride's future is detïnitely shakier than if it is approved," Berla declared. But right now, the AATA is concentrating on increasing the number of riders on the vans, especially during the non-peak hours. (Dial-A-Ride's busiest times are early moming and late afternoon). Proposed ideas to increase ridership' include adding more destination points and widening the neighborhood serviced by Dial-A-Ride. But no decisions have yet been made. To obtain service, residents in the service area must cali 663-4292 and a bus will be dispatched to their doorstep. Dial-A-Ride transports persons to three main áreas: a downtown loop, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and University Hospital and a stop at Church and Geddes. The downtown loop runs along Main from William to Huron, on Huron from Main to División, on División between Liberty and Huron, on Liberty between División and Maynard, on Maynard from Liberty to William, and on William between Maynard and Main. There are two points on the loop where residents may baord the vans without telephoning - at the entrance to Jacobson's on Maynard and near Woolworth's on the west side of Main between Washington and Liberty. Otherwise, persons wishing return trips home must telephone to be picked up at any point along the loop.