MODE: Don’t Downgrade Success!

MODE (Mobility On-Demand Every Day) is a program launched in July 2018 by the Big Blue Bus to serve the transportation needs of Santa Monica’s senior residents. The BBB partnership with LYFT provides seniors with service throughout the City of Santa Monica, south on Lincoln Blvd to Smart and Final and to 5 local medical facilities. The fare $.50.

MODE has been a resounding success!

Twice as many riders per day are going to medical appointments, shopping destinations, social events, services and more, than those served by the clunky old Dial-a-Ride. Twice as many senior riders are set free to have a life beyond apartment and house walls.

Now the City of Santa Monica and the Big Blue Bus system want to make “program adjustments” that, in effect cut back service availability to seniors. I guess we were enjoying our new life too much. Time to put the seniors back in their box.

The four “proposed adjustments” to MODE service represent a major cut to the service currently enjoyed by seniors in our community

Fare Adjustments

The most glaring proposed adjustment is the fare increase times 4 from $.50 per ride to $2.00 per ride.

$4.00 RT to go to the grocery store, shop or attend a class at Emeritus. What does it cost a resident to make that same grocery store run in their private car?  Maybe, $1.00. At most $2.00 if you’re going across town.

The alternative to Lyft is the BBB. This is not always the safest environment and is definitely a huge time commitment. The same grocery store trip can take two or more hours for the round trip. It can often involve taking two different busses each way. That means four rides, lousy bus seating, and a wait in the elements at the bus stop. Riding the bus potentially represents a big chunk out of anyone’s day just to purchase basic grocery items.

A dependency on the bus also limits a person’s opportunity to shop a variety of stores for lower-priced necessities.  The elder adult sees their cost of living go up while their quality of life goes down.

Furthermore, this fare increase to $2.00 is only good through the end of 2020. Then it jumps to $2.50 and again to $3.50 in 2021.

It’s going to cost the most financially vulnerable members of our community a lot more to run the basic errands that keep them independent.

Monthly Trip Cap

BBB also wants to cut the number of Lyft rides from 40 per month to 35. Some months 35 rides might be more than enough. Then there are other months where 40 barely makes it. For example, if someone requires daily medical treatment, that’s 10 rides per week, 40 per month. No rides left for basic needs. Every ride you cut is going to cost a senior at least $6.00, maybe more depending on distance. Many will do without when they really shouldn’t.

Minimum Age Requirement

Raising the minimum age required for older adults to enroll in the program from 60-years-old to 62-years-old is just petty and mean. What about the seniors who qualified for the program this year at 60? Do they get dropped and have to wait to requalify? Two additional years of waiting when someone needs the service? Petty and Mean.

Medical Appointment Trips

Currently medical appointment trips outside of Santa Monica can be taken any time during service hours. The new direction is to encourage weekday trips to be taken between 10am and 3pm. You’re looking at an appointment window between 10:30am and 2:30pm if you consider transportation time.

Trying to get an appointment with a doctor or other out-patient care within such strict parameters can be next to impossible.

This limits Urgent Care to weekdays 10am to 3pm. How long do you want to wait for urgent medical need to be addressed? This adjustment is a significant cut back from what Dial-a-Ride offered.

MODE allows elder adults in Santa Monica to be self-sufficient. They travel in a safe environment from doorstep to destination and back.

The MODE Proposal sheet states: “The success of MODE thus far, reflects how essential on-demand, curb-to-curb transportation is to Santa Monica residents.”

Let me tell you, those of us using MODE have been celebrating a life of reconnecting socially and meeting our needs independently. Our quality of life has improved. BBB is providing a valuable life-affirming service. Let’s keep it that way.

Guest Columnist Pat Becker has been a Santa Monica resident for over 35 years, is now an active Senior, and a member of the Historic San Vicente Coalition. We thank Pat for her contribution this week.

By Pat Becker for SMart (Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow)

Thane Roberts, Architect, Robert H. Taylor AIA, Ron Goldman FAIA, Architect, Dan Jansenson, Architect, Building and Fire-Life Safety Commission, Samuel Tolkin Architect, Mario Fonda-Bonardi, AIA, Planning Commissioner, Phil Brock, Santa Monica Arts Commission. For previous articles see