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Vouchers for free Pace rides to be restricted to seniors

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 5:24 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 11:51 p.m. CDT

McHENRY – Residents with disabilities will no longer be able to use the Pace Dial-A-Ride program for free in the city limits.

The McHenry City Council voted unanimously Monday evening to restrict the voucher program to McHenry residents age 60 and older.

The city of McHenry began offering vouchers to residents age 55 and older through a 2001 grant from the state Department of Commerce and Community Affairs. The vouchers enable them to use the Dial-A-Ride service within the city of McHenry for free.

Over the years, the program expanded to include residents with disabilities, creating difficulties for staff who have had to make judgment calls on who gets the vouchers, Deputy City Administrator Doug Martin said.

“It’s not a straight determination,” he said.

Martin showed the Finance and Personal Committee the form the state uses to issue handicap placards, which also requires a doctor’s sign-off, but the committee showed an overwhelming preference to go back to the original intent of the program, which was to help seniors get around.

Residents with disabilities and others who used the voucher program still will be able to use the Dial-A-Ride service, but they will have to pay the established rates, which vary depending on the type of rider – general, senior, disabled or student – as well as where they’re going.

Rides within the city of McHenry are open to the public and cost $1.75 with discounted rates of 75 cents for students, seniors and people with disabilities.

The city of McHenry also has a partnership with McHenry County and the cities of Crystal Lake and Woodstock to provide transportation to other areas.

Those rides cost $2 for the first five miles of a one-way trip plus 25 cents for each additional mile. The discounted rate, which is for seniors and those with disabilities, is $1 for the first five miles of a one-way trip plus 15 cents for each additional mile.

These rates are subsidized by Pace, the city of McHenry and other participating governments, Martin said. Fares typically cover about 3 to 4 percent of a trip’s cost.

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