The Jacksonville Transportation Authority will subsidize taxi cab rides for a group of senior citizens who live behind a recently closed Winn-Dixie on Beach Boulevard.
State Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, asked JTA to help after she visited Madison Manor Senior Living off Hogan Road in May. Seven in 10 of its low-income residents don’t have cars, which she said presented a challenge when the grocery store closed.
“It made their lives a little more difficult, and so I wanted to help with that because I could,” Gibson said. She visited Madison Manor Wednesday to follow up.
Many residents, especially those who use wheelchairs or walkers, said they couldn’t cross Beach Boulevard for the bus stop before the light changed. Others didn’t qualify for a $6 round trip JTA paratransit ride service for the disabled, or they said it’s too expensive. They all make under $28,000 a year.
On Wednesday, JTA CEO Nat Ford unveiled his solution: Coastal Cab will pick up the seniors for $2 each way. Additional riders would pay $1.The seniors can go wherever they want within a radius that’s expected to include at least three grocery stores. JTA will pick up the rest of the tab. Others living in the radius will also get subsidized rides.
JTA is already piloting a similar cab program in Mandarin. Ford said it’s cheaper than sending buses to the complex for just a few riders after a route past Madison Mainor was recently cut.
“It’s a win-win,” Ford said. “We’re not literally stranding people in their neighborhoods, and at the same time we’re able to take those resources and then reallocate those to those large corridors where we may even have over-crowding situations.”
Madison Manor resident Charlotte Cooper started dancing when she heard the news. Before Ford arrived she had been asking to “talk to the man in charge.”
“That’s the best plan for us,” Cooper said after JTA’s presentation. “I can go anywhere. I can have more time at the grocery store when I’m shopping. I can stop in and get my nails did or whatever. Oh, I just love it.”
JTA’s negotiations with Coastal Cab should be finalized within six weeks, Ford said.