Richmond council moves to extend paratransit to more riders
on October 19, 2023
It was a sunny, hot afternoon; Rosalyn Heimberg, 84, a retired antique dealer, was at the hearing aid center for a scheduled appointment.
“I got to my appointment on time but had to wait about 40 minutes for the driver to pick me up when I was done,” Heimberg said.
This wait was longer than expected but not unusual for Heimberg and others who rely on Richmond’s Paratransit service, R-Transit, which provides low-cost transportation to West Contra Costa County residents unable to use regular transit because of a disability or health-related condition.
Last month, the Richmond City Council approved a $250,000 contract with TransMETRO to expand the R-Transit service.
TransMETRO CEO Fred Khan said supplemental services should be available this week. “What we will be seeing between 12 to 24 months is about a 40% increase in ridership because the users have a more reliable service,” he said.
R-Transit serves nearly 1,370 people, according to Mary Thomas, a paratransit driver who coordinates driver scheduling. That number is down nearly 70% from early 2020, when pre-pandemic ridership was at 4,530.
Lori Reese, project manager for Paratransit Services, said the additional funding will allow them to increase the number of drivers as demand grows.
“We only have two drivers currently serving all of west county, including incorporated areas,” she said. “We can increase the participation and enrollment into our program with more drivers TransMETRO will be offering.”
Heimberg, who has been riding with the service since 2018, said it helps her in many ways, regardless of the occasional long wait times. “I would be lost without them,” she said. “I know that with this expansion, the service would be more effective.”
The supplemental service will help older people take classes and engage more with the community, said 81-year-old William Vogel, of Richmond. “It will make life easier for us all.”
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