Ride2Work Funding is Approved
Thanks to a city budget surplus, Arlington’s popular ride-to-work program for low-income residents has earned a reprieve.
City Council agreed this week to direct $30,000 of a $2.7 million unexpected budget surplus to Ride2Work. The money should keep the program running for several more months.
“This service touches a segment of the population that needs the most help,” said Lyndsay Mitchell, a project manager in the Community Development and Planning Department. “People are doing what they can to help themselves by working or getting an education. They just lack transportation.”
In addition to the money from the city, Wal-Mart provided a $4,000 grant, and a private citizen donated $3,000. Tarrant County has agreed to kick in $10,000. Additional grants and applications are pending, Mitchell said.
City officials launched Ride2Work in January 2011 with a $365,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration. As a requirement of the grant, the city must provide matching funds. Initially, the city used money from the Community Development Block Grant-Recovery program.
But as the program grew in popularity, Mitchell said, the money dwindled faster than expected.
Last year, Ride2Work served roughly 100 Arlington residents and completed more than 5,800 trips, far more than the 3,500 projected for the first year. Demand has continued to soar, as more people are on a waitlist.
Moderate-income residents are eligible for Ride2Work, but 86 percent of riders have household incomes below the federal poverty level, which is $22,350 a year for a family of four.
About 70 percent of riders use the service for transportation to a regular job, while others use the service to get to job interviews, training or classes, Mitchell said. About 70 percent have dependent children.
Clients pay $2 per trip and are typically referred to the program by partner agencies, such as Mission Arlington, Arlington Life Shelter and the Salvation Army. The city contracts with the American Red Cross, which runs the vans.
“Transportation is one of the biggest needs in this community,” said Leah Schumann, transportation manager for Red Cross. “We need programs like this.”
Ideally, Mitchell said, Ride2Work would develop a support network to sustain it after matching grants run out.
“If people have transportation, they can get to a job, earn money and achieve real stability,” Mitchell said. “This program keeps people employed or on the road to employment.”