Sarasota-Based Transportation Service to Raise Ridership Rates
ITNSunCoast will increase pick-up and other fees to keep up with the great number of riders and the inability to attract volunteer drivers.
ITNSunCoast, in an effort to respond to a record year of rides for people 60 and older and people with disabilities in the area, will increase ridership fees, the nonprofit announced Monday.
Beginning Sept. 1, rides for regular membership will jump from $3 per pick up to $4 and will increase by 25 cents per mile with a minimum of $10 per one-way ride.
“We simply wanted to stabilize our finances,” said Pat Ryan, the nonprofit’s interim executive director. “The issue is that ITN does so many rides and it’s a costly service for the organization.”
The nonprofit has increased its rates for its door-to-door service incrementally in the last few years as a result of general expenses going up and a greater reliance on paid drivers.
The Independent Transportation Network of America comprises 14 ITN affiliates in 12 states. ITNSunCoast is the busiest in the country. The nonprofit gave a record 25,364 rides this year.
“We can keep up, but we just don’t have the volunteers,” said Ryan, noting that about 30% of rides were provided by volunteers.
ITNSunCoast’s ability to attract volunteer drivers, who give anywhere from 100 to 110 rides a day, has not kept pace with ride requests, especially during the summer, when the nonprofit sees a significant drop off in volunteers as snowbirds leave the area and return home.
About two-thirds of the nonprofit’s expenses are collected from riders. The rest is raised through donations, fundraising efforts, and grants. On average, the nonprofit needs to raise $5 for every ride it provides.
The rate increases will not affect riders who qualify for the road scholar program. People who use that service are charged significantly less and do not pay the annual $50 membership fee.
This story comes from Aspirations Journalism, an initiative of The Patterson Foundation and Sarasota Herald-Tribune to inform, inspire, and engage the community to take action on issues related to Age-Friendly Sarasota, Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, National Council on Aging and the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition.