Huntsville hopes to expand shuttle bus service to seniors, disabled

HUNTSVILLE, Ala.- As Huntsville grows and much of its population reaches retirement age, it can be hard for seniors to get around town.

The problem Huntsville's shuttle bus service faces is limited hours, no routes on weekends and in the case of some routes, some seniors wait about an hour to get home.

Still, transportation leaders say if you're disabled or a senior, they want to hear from you.

On most afternoons, the running shuttles in downtown Huntsville welcome dozens of riders.

"You can see nine routes," Huntsville's manager of public transportation John Autry pointed. "The larger the bubble, the more ridership you have."

Autry says for seniors, the orange route is the most popular. It gives a lift to around 400 riders a day with stops at the library, Walmart and the rehabilitation center.

"Socialization is important," Ann Anderson, executive director of CASA of Madison County stated.

"If you live on the first part of [the orange route] and have to transfer downtown, it could take you over an hour to get from A to B," Autry added.

The system isn't perfect, Autry admits. He and transit leaders are looking for ways to help seniors and people with disabilities find easy access to the shuttle bus.

"We want to take that stress and anxiety away," Autry explained.

Anderson says close to 80 percent of CASA's clients no longer drive. Right now, Huntsville offers seniors 50 cents for a ticket to ride, and Handi-Ride that'll pick them up at home.

"We want it so that they can get around independently, and with dignity in this community. That's it," Anderson said.

Right now, close to 3,000 people ride the bus in Huntsville every day. Autry says they're considering changes, including possible routes after 7:00 p.m. and on weekends.

The city of Huntsville is budgeting around $2.3 million to public transit this year, up from around $1.9 million last year.

People are invited to a public hearing on Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. to give their concerns for the city's paratransit plan. The meeting will be at the parking and transit building on Church Street.

 

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