Two York County Councilmen would like to put Access, the county’s subsidized bus system, out of business. We hope other council members stand fast in resisting calls to end this valuable service.
Access, which is administered by the York County Council on Aging, provides rides for elderly and infirm residents as well as others who don’t have other means of transportation. Riders make reservations in advance and pay $2.50 for the service.
While Access is aimed primarily at the elderly and infirm, a large percentage of passengers are younger residents who use the system to get to and from work. But riders use the system for a variety of reasons, such as meeting doctor appointments, going grocery shopping, filling prescriptions or just having a day on the town.
Councilman Joe Cox, who has been an outspoken opponent of Access practically since it was started in 2006, believes it is too expensive and inefficient. The true cost of fares, he claims, would be $29 per trip if the system weren’t so heavily subsidized by local, state and federal money.
The total budget for the program this fiscal year is just shy of $200,000. Federal grants cover half of all operational costs, while the county pays about a third. State money and other grants cover the rest.
Cox was joined Monday by Councilman Bruce Henderson in voting against allowing program managers to apply for federal and state grants and rejecting bids to replace four buses. Fortunately, the five other council members voted to allow the grant applications and the replacement of the aging buses.
While Council Chairman Britt Blackwell expressed some reservations about the operation of Access, he conceded that some of the patients at his optometry service use the system to get treatment. Councilman Curwood Chappell, who also expressed some concerns, said the system serves as a safety net for those “down on their luck,” and that he couldn’t turn his back on the destitute.
We, too, believe the county should take steps to ensure that Access is operated efficiently. But, like Chappell, we also believe it is an essential service for people who have few, if any, other options for getting around.
The county has no subway or passenger train systems. Attempts to establish fixed-route bus systems have failed.
Until Access came along, residents often had to resort to calling a private cab service to get a ride to see the doctor or buy groceries. For low-income residents, that was expensive transportation, but they had no other choice.
The Access bus service is an affordable option used by 400 riders a month last year. While Access benefits the passengers, it also delivers them to stores, restaurants, doctors’ offices and their jobs, benefiting the local economy.
Doing that much good for that many people throughout the year for $200,000 is a bargain. If anything, the county should try to expand the program to ensure that it is serving all those who need it.