Seniors in Spanish Springs are asking for more transportation options, like a public bus service, to get around town. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss attended an open house meeting in Reno Thursday hosted by the Regional Transportation Commission to learn what area residents are saying they need most.
Several dozens of community members attended the gathering and gave their input on what the RTC's priorities should be moving forward.
In Spanish Springs, there's no dedicated bus line but people who are eligible under the Americans with Disabilities Act can use RTC's Access program, which provides door-to-door paratransit service.
Reno resident Gwendolyn Lomas says that's not enough and many of her friends in that area feel stranded.
"If you're a senior," she says,"that gives you the ability to be free, independent, without needing help to get around or you're not locked up in your house all day long."
Another attendee Diane Ross runs a local company called The Continuum, which offers daycare for people of all ages, including seniors.
She's had hundreds of clients over the years tell her that they live in one of the city's outlying areas, like Spanish Springs, and they can't take advantage of local programs for seniors like book clubs or make it to their medical appointments. They simply don't have access.
"If people are isolated," Ross explains, "it leads to depression; it leads to health issues. In reality, if we do it now, we save money later on down the road, so if you want to look at in a compassionate way and then you can look at it in an economical way."
The problem with spending money now is that the RTC's budget for these projects is limited to about $600,000.
"We have millions of dollars of needs in this community for senior and disabled transportation,"
explains RTC Executive Director Lee Gibson. "But what our needs are and what our resources are--there's a huge gap. And that's really one of the challenges we've got to kind of work through."
Gibson's team is gathering public input so they can draft a transit plan requesting federal and local funding. In the meantime, Gibson says the organization is working on other cost-cutting initiatives.
"We're implementing the electric buses," he explains. "That holds some potential to save big dollars because we can start cutting our fuel budget. After labor, the second biggest operating cost for a transit agency is fuel."
The four new electric buses that the RTC started running back in April will collectively save $200,000 each year, but Gibson says more funding is needed to plan ahead for senior transportation as that population continues to grow.