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November 05. 2012 8:47PM

Tri-CAP transportation gets boost from seniors fund in Lakes Region

TAMWORTH - Tri-CAP, the Tri-County Communication Action Program, has expanded its public on-demand transportation service.

Tri-CAP Transportation Director Beverly Raymond said Monday that a $90,878 grant came from the Federal Transit Administration's 5310 Elderly and Disabled program. The Mount Washington Valley Economic Development Council will serve as the grant's fiscal agent.

The three groups that will benefit from the grant are the Tri-County CAP Club Loon Dial-a-Ride service, the Carroll County Retired Senior Volunteer Program and the Gibson Center in North Conway.

Tri-CAP is using its portion of the funds to expand the Dial-a-Ride service by three hours a day, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in these service areas: from Tamworth, Chocorua, Moultonborough and Sandwich on Monday, Tuesday and Fridays; and from Freedom and Effingham on Tuesdays.

Bus routes to Ossipee, Moultonborough and Center Harbor will operate on Wednesdays, and from Ossipee to Wolfeboro on Thursdays through Dial-a-Ride.

Plans are under way to expand hours in the North Conway to Madison service areas, according to Raymond.

In another service expansion, free bus service is now available to senior citizens who want excursions out of town to theatrical or music events, shopping, or social outings. The Blue Loon bus can be scheduled for a variety of events, and Raymond said she is open for suggestion. "We want their input."

Raymond said with the holidays coming, perhaps some seniors would enjoy a trip to an ice show, holiday shopping or a Christmas program.

The Blue Loon service is free to seniors, but donations are welcome. Raymond said that overall, ridership is steady with a slight decline earlier this year when Dial-a-Ride service hours were reduced. She said the newly expanded hours should attract more commuting riders.

From July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, Dial-a-Ride service provided trips for 3,719 seniors, and 2,373 non-seniors for a total of 6,092 individual trips. The highest ridership was on the West Ossipee to North Conway run, with 2,396 riders; Ossipee to Wolfeboro was second, at 977 riders; and West Ossipee to Laconia with 581 rides, running at only two runs a day at the time. A midday run was just added to the route. At the Gibson Center in North Conway, Executive Director George Cleveland said the center does offer its own transportation services, but is working in any way possible with the Blue Loon service to serve the county's seniors.

The Blue Loon does stop at Silver Lake Landing in Madison, a public housing development for seniors that the Gibson Center manages.

"We're preaching to the same congregation," Cleveland said of the need and support for public and senior transportation services that his organization and Tri-CAP and Blue Loon have to offer.

"You can't have too much (transportation) - we need more than what we have," he said. In much of Carroll County, "you can't 'get there from anywhere,'" he said.

Cleveland, who has served as moderator for Tamworth for many years, said he challenges critics who claim the buses run empty. "The windows have tinting - you can't tell if anyone is on there or not. I know for a fact, the buses are not as empty as some people say. People have to realize that there is no transportation system in existence that pays for itself ."

For more information on transportation services, visit the website at tccap.org or call dispatch at 1-866-752-6890 to inquire.

lmulkern@newstote.com


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