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Not a Smooth Ride for New Paratransit System

It's been a bumpy ride the first couple of months for Woodstock's new Paratransit system. Ridership has dropped upwards of 50%. Under the old Parataxi service, there were about 120 calls for rides a day, now that number is settling somewhere between 60 and 80 rides. The new system, run by the city using Voyageur buses, also requires riders to book their ride 24-hours in advance. Despite less use, the projected budget is up 42% for 2013. Although that's a rough estimate, after less than 2-months under the new system, City Engineer Harold DeHaan says it's not unexpected. "The addition of an overflow service, the addition of a dispatch service and the decreased ridership...it kind of creates a perfect storm and creates a fairly hefty increase for that paratransit budget." The paratransit budget is estimated at $567,000. The city is kicking in $100,000 in provincial gas tax money to help offset the increase. DeHaan also admits the transition for riders and the staff that are now running the program has been a bumpy one. "Things have not worked quite as smoothly as we would have liked. We've had problems with dispatch, a new company, not being quite as familiar with the area. Issues with the buses also, but we're hoping to get all of those things hammered out." DeHaan says there are weekly meetings aimed at getting the service running properly.

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