Thunder Bay Transportation seeks Dial-a-Ride millage

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz A Thunder Bay Transportation Authority Dial-A-Ride bus passes in front of Alpena Furniture on 2nd Avenue on Monday. The TBTA is seeking a property tax to help keep the Dial-A-Ride service Alpena operating as it is now and to avoid increasing ride fees.

ALPENA — Last year, nearly 100,000 rides were provided to people in Alpena via Thunder Bay Transportation Authority’s Dial-A-Ride program.

In order to continue to provide the service, it will need voters to support a property tax proposal in August.

On Monday, the Alpena Municipal Council voted 5-0 to seek a renewal of a property tax that will help fund Dial-A-Ride in Alpena.

The city will put the proposal on the ballot during the Aug. 6 primary election and only Alpena residents will vote on the tax proposal.

According to TBTA Board President Adam Poll, TBTA is asking the council to ask voters for a five-year property tax to keep the Dial-A-Ride program operating in Alpena at an affordable cost. If approved by voters, it will cost people who own a home valued at $100,000 about $50 a year.

For years, TBTA has depended on a property tax through the city to provide rides for a small fee for residents in Alpena. The tax revenue allows TBTA to charge small rates to its customers, many are seniors who struggle to get to doctor appointments, stores, church, and many other destinations.

Many students also rely on the shuttle buses to get to and from school.

Poll said seniors or people with disabilities only pay 75 cents a ride, while it is $1.50 for others. The revenue from the property tax supplements the program and allows TBTA to continue to offer reduced rates.

In his report, Poll told the council members that nearly 90% of the riders who use the Dial-A-Ride program, which is specific to the city, were residents of Alpena.

He said the goal is to keep rates as they are now. Poll said TBTA hasn’t increased fees for 25 years and would rather not now.

“Ridership has gone way up over the last couple years and since COVID,” he said. “We want to continue to provide the same service we do now and want to continue our relationship with the city.”

Poll said TBTA intended to have the proposal on the ballot in February, but confusion led to the transportation authority missing the deadline. He said Alpena voters have always been supportive of Dial-A-Ride and supported those who depend on it to get from one place to another and he hopes the same is true again in August.

Poll said if the proposal fails, it is possible it will go back on the ballot in November, but there is also a chance TBTA could change the Dial-A-Ride program.

“We would still operate, but I would say rates could go up because there is no way we can sustain our current rate without the millage,” Poll said. “Not with rising gas costs and all of the other inflation everyone sees. That millage is paramount to what we provide.”


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