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Ponnada: Keep your SEATS

BY SRI PONNADA | JANUARY 21, 2013 6:30 AM

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In Johnson County, the SEATS program provides door-to-door rides to senior citizens, people with disabilities, and other persons in dire need of transportation. The program, which has continued to grow annually, made more than 124,000 trips last year. However, the cost has also been growing along with the program’s popularity, and there is now a proposal that would phase out Johnson County’s subsidy to the program over the course of three years.

For many years, SEATS has been generously subsidized by the Johnson County Board of Supervisors. Unfortunately, the program may not be as efficient, or even in existence, for much longer because of lack of funding.

Allowing the SEATS program to be phased out shows a lack of concern for the county’s citizens who are disabled and is also in a sense discriminatory as the individuals using the system will not then have the same benefits and opportunities as persons who are not disabled.

“The federal government mandates Iowa City and Coralville to provide the service,” said Supervisor Rod Sullivan. “It does not mandate that Johnson County pay part of the cost. Through the use of tax increment financing, the cities have limited Johnson County’s ability to grow. We have no money to give.”

Currently, basic one-way ride fare for trips that originate in Coralville and North Liberty cost $1.50. Trips originating in Iowa City cost $1.50 to $2 per one-way ride. Eligible Iowa City residents are offered a reduced fare from 75 cents to $1. These people aren’t getting their rides for free. What’s next? Removing disabled parking spots in parking lots because repainting them costs too much?
Sullivan said the county spends almost $25 million on health and human services each year.

“The county has done and will continue to do far more than its share,” he said. “SEATS riders deserve the same fine service they have been receiving for years; it is up to Coralville and Iowa City to step up and make that happen.”


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