Sep. 23—The city is raising the age eligibility for non-disabled riders of Spirit of Kokomo paratransit system.
Starting Nov. 1, the Spirit of Kokomo will no longer accept riders under the age of 65 if they do not have a qualifying disability. Currently, the age cut off is 60 years old for riders without a qualifying disability.
Current riders under the age of 65 with no qualified disability will be grandfathered in, and, to be clear, riders of any age with a qualified disability will still be able to ride the Spirit of Kokomo.
City transit officials tell the Tribune the change was made to primarily ease the burden on the Spirit of Kokomo system that is currently facing a shortage of bus drivers, to improve service for the system's hundreds of daily riders and the realization that many who are 60-years-old or a bit older are physically able to either drive themselves or wait at a bus stop for the city's fixed route CityLine Trolley system.
"Like everyone else, we're struggling to keep drivers," Jan Basil, head of the city's transportation department, said. "We're taking more phone calls because our clients are used to us picking them up in a good amount of time ... but we're so overloaded.
"And what we're finding is — we started looking around the room — most of us are 60 or getting close to, and we're still pretty able."
Basil said the increase in gas prices has increased the number of applications the city has received to be a rider of the Spirit of Kokomo, which takes about 700 trips a day shared among 14-16 drivers.
"We're just trying to get in line with other communities and what's best for our community, and, at the same time, being able to provide and deliver probably a higher quality of service by being able to cut back," Dave Trine, operations coordinator for the city of Kokomo, said.
Tyler Juranovich can be reached at 765-454-8577, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @tylerjuranovich.