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Ktown Transportation Services

Ktown Transportation Services, shown here on Aug. 30, 2013, helps seniors and people who are disabled get around the county. It is one of three services in the area to receive funding for such services from the state Department of Transportation.

RACINE COUNTY — Many people over the age of 55 rely on public transportation and specialized services to get around.

In Wisconsin, many specialized transportation services rely on government subsidies to stay afloat. Without the subsidies, the providers would likely have to raise their prices or go out of business, leaving many people without access to transportation.

“Men outlive their driving ability by six years (on average), and women by 10,” said Ninna Frank, Racine County’s transportation coordinator. “That is a significant time to rely on transportation alternatives that might not even exist in their community.”

Across the state, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation funds more than 120 “specialized transit services” that are run by individual counties and nonprofits, including three in Racine County: Ktown, MyRide and SPARC. Without those services, many county residents would not be able to live independently and would have to be “institutionalized” to some extent, according to Frank.

“Overwhelmingly, people want to stay in their homes and their communities,” she said.

According to a report by the Washington, D.C.-based Surface Transportation Policy Project, people who are 65 or older and do not drive:

  • Have 15 percent fewer doctor visits
  • Are 59 percent less likely to go shopping or out to restaurants
  • Leave home 65 percent less often for social, family and religious purposes

The elderly population is also growing, meaning that these transportation services will be relied upon more and more, Frank said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the entire baby boomer generation will be over the age of 65 by 2030. Also, by 2035, the Census Bureau expects that Americans older than 65 will outnumber those under the age of 18 for the first time ever.

How are these services funded?

The DOT provides this funding through the Specialized Transportation Assistance Program for Counties Program, better known as Wisconsin Statute 85.21.

That statute was passed in 1978, and it allows each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties to apply for state funding. That funding can either be used by the county to directly offer transit services, or the county can distribute that money to nonprofits.

In 2019, the state plans to distributed just shy of $14.5 million in Statute 85.21 funding.

The counties that use specialized transport services more will receive more money, and vice versa, with each county receiving a minimum of 0.5 percent of the state’s total allocation.

In addition to whatever the state provides, counties are required to pay one-fifth as much into the same fund.

Racine County has 3.46 percent of the state’s elderly and disabled populations, and is set to receive $480,176 from the state. And thus, the county has to pay $96,035, to bring Racine County’s total specialized transportation funding to $576,211.

County’s specialized transport options

Frank is working with area hospitals to begin providing 24-hour transportation services, so that patients can always get home after receiving treatment. She also wants to create a more accessible and easy-to-understand online directory, listing transportation providers and the varied services each one offers.

The Statute 85.21 money that Racine County receives is used to fund Ktown, MyRide and SPARC.

Each of those programs offer slightly different services, and have varied requirements for their users.

Ktown Transportation

Who can use it?

  • Residents 65 or older or people who have a disability card AND live outside of the Belle Urban (Racine public transit) service area

Hours:

  • 5:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday-Friday. Saturday rides available for dialysis appointments only.

Cost to users:

  • $3 for any trip within county, $8 for trips outside of county.

Location:

  • Based in Kenosha County, it serves much of southeastern Wisconsin

Website:

Phone:

  • 262-764-0377
  • All rides require 24-hour advance notice
  • Rides can be requested for any purpose
  • Offers mobility services for people who are wheelchair users
  • Provided 11,894 rides in 2017

SPARC

Who can use it?

  • Technically open to general public, but primarily serves Racine County seniors and people who are disabled

Hours:

  • 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Saturday

Cost to users:

  • $2 per one-way trip, $3 for roundtrip, $5 for unlimited daily use

Location:

  • Based in Burlington, but serves all of Racine County

Phone:

  • 262-412-8641
  • No reservations required, follows a set daily transportation schedule, although customized routes are available upon request
  • Does not offer transport for wheelchair users
  • SPARC stands for “Shuttling People Around Racine County”
  • Provided 10,353 rides in 2017

MyRide

Who can use it?

  • Residents who are 55 or older, and/or those who are visually impaired

Hours:

  • 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday

Cost to users:

  • No requirement, but donations are suggested

Location:

  • Primarily in Racine and Mount Pleasant, with limited availability in Burlington and Waterford

Phone:

  • 262-417-7544
  • Only employs one paid driver; the rest of the drivers are volunteers
  • All rides require 24-hour advance notice
  • Provided 4,933 rides in 2017

There are several other specialized transportation services offered throughout the county.

The City of Racine’s DART (Dial a Ride Transportation) program, for example, is funded through a city-specific grant. It offers mobility services for people who are wheelchair users and those who are able-bodied, although it doesn’t provide transportation outside of the City of Racine. One-way rides cost $4.

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Reporter

Adam Rogan (SCHS '14, Drake U. '17) has been covering homelessness, arts & culture and just about everything else for the JT since March 2018. He enjoys mid-afternoon naps, loud music played quietly and social media followers @Could_Be_Rogan

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