BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Before the pandemic, around 900 seniors and disabled people in Kern County used the Consolidated Transportation Services Agency (CTSA) service, which has offered low-cost door-to-door transportation for this community for 23 years. However, the future of the program is now up in the air.
The current sponsor of the program, North of the River Recreation and Park District said it is getting too costly to continue it and is looking for someone else to take over. This someone else may potentially be the Golden Empire Transit.
What is the Consolidated Transportation Services Agency (CTSA)?
Provides low-cost transportation service for seniors 60+ and disabled community members. Services are available Monday through Friday.
Transportation is provided for doctor appointments, senior activities, grocery shopping, and other essential trips. A $2 fee will be charged for each one-way trip.
Who is Qualified to Ride?
- Any individual sixty (60) years of age or older.
- Any individual with a permanent disability impeding his or her ability to board, ride, or disembark public transportation that is accessible for individuals with disabilities. (A note signed by your primary physician is required if under age 60.)
- Any individual with a permanent disability requiring the assistance of a wheelchair lift or other boarding assistance, and the fixed-route available is not wheelchair accessible.
- Any individual with a condition preventing him or her from walking or traveling to or from a bus stop on the fixed-route system.
Community members who depend on the service are hoping a solution is found so they can continue using the service.
“If I were to lose it, it would impact the trips going home, getting to work on time, those kinds of things,” said Chris Fendrick, president of the Greater Bakersfield Council of the Blind.
Fendrick has a retinol degenerative eye disease which does not allow him to drive. He uses the CTSA service five times a week and says it gives him and many others independence.
“The dialysis patients, they can’t rely on fixed route system, they need door-to-door assistance, our seniors definitely would have a difficulty getting to various adult programs,” said Fendrick.
A spokesperson with NOR said this is the only recreation and park district in the entire state of California that offers such a service. Although it originally was meant to only take seniors to the NOR's adult center, it now services all of Bakersfield and some unincorporated areas which have led to a dramatic increase in clients.
Currently, around 80% of all rides are made outside the district service area.
Clients like Fendrick said they know there are other options, but for example, some like rideshare apps are too costly and not wheelchair accessible.
Other similar programs may not work during the times needed and fixed ride systems like public transportation would increase his work commute to three hours.
“It would definitely impact the quality of life in Bakersfield and the quality of life for this marginalized community as it is,” said Fendrick.
The Golden Empire Transportation already has a similar program in place called get a lift paratransit. But in the board meeting that took place Tuesday, a CTSA presentation is expected to be delivered. There will not be a decision of if GET will absorb the service made today but according to a NOR spokesperson, the negotiations continue.