A big shout out to all the residents in District 1 and the entire beautiful city we call Surprise. July was a very busy month for me despite the fact that there were no city council meetings and many staff members travelled to cooler places for vacation. Some of us are die-hard Arizonians, and we tough it out and stay here!
Valley Metro paratransit changes went into effect on July 1. For many of our residents, they encountered significant problems with the roll out of the new RideChoice program and the paratransit portion delivered by Transdev. Valley Metro RideChoice provides taxi service at a deeply discounted rate to qualified seniors and people with disabilities in participating communities, including Surprise. I discussed the changes in my newsletter last month. There were many problems with both programs, and some of the problems remain a month later, although there has been some progress.
There are some things to remember if you are utilizing either program. First and foremost, these are two separate distinct programs. The RideChoice program, for local rides, and the paratransit part is for regional rides outside of Surprise; however, these rides are restricted for work or medical trips. The phone number to book your ride for paratransit service is (602)716-2200. For the RideChoice program, you can call one of the participating providers directly to schedule your transportation needs. For more information on the program or for the providers, please visit http://www.valleymetro.org/accessibility/other_travel_options.
I have not heard that many complaints regarding the paratransit program in the last week or so compared to the first three weeks in July. I have had only one firsthand experience with Transdev and have had no complaints. The RideChoice part is a different story, as there have been complaints about AAA and Discount Cab arriving late, or not even showing up at all. Now, you folks have received your RideChoice card from MJM (the company in Baltimore, Maryland that is servicing the Ride Choice Program), you also received a brochure with a list of cab companies that are willing to be a part of the program; however, you may want to disregard most of them because I called each company myself and every one of them except AAA (which is also known as Yellow Cab) and Discount Cab said they are not involved in the project any longer, will not travel to Surprise, or it will take them too long to get to Surprise. I do not know where MJM gets the names of these cab companies, but it is obvious that they were not in touch with those providers.
Now, just two final thoughts before I move on, if you need to have your receipts as a record of your medical trips and you choose Discount Cab, you should make a copy of the receipt after you receive it from the driver because the ink will fade and after a couple of days it will be gone. One thing to remember is if you choose AAA or Discount Cab for your ride and the fare exceeds $21, you will be required to pay the difference as costs greater than $21 are paid by the participant. Watch the meter! For example, when you pay your initial $3 for your ride within the City of Surprise, it could end up costing a total of $10 to $12 because there are a number of rides that can be a total of $28 to $29 dollars according to the meter. So your original fare of $3+$7 or $8= $10 or $11, so if you find that for your ride that continuously is over $21, I suggest you call the Paratransit phone number if your trip is for medical or work, because that ride will cost you $4 no matter where you go. Both programs I mentioned are still being looked at for improvements, especially RideChoice. I apologize in advance for any confusion. Remember to call for a ride and confirm the day before your scheduled pick-up.
On July 1, I attended a ribbon cutting for our newest restaurant called “Casa De Papa” (13761 W. Bell Rd.). Angel Rivera and his father Pedro own it. If you like authentic Mexican food, this is the place to go.
I hope everyone got to the stadium on the Fourth of July for baseball and the great firework display. Thanks to Community and Recreation Services (CRS) department for a great job. For those who have not heard, Donna Miller has been promoted to Director of CRS. Congratulations, Donna! I am sure you will do a great job for the city, and more importantly the residents of Surprise.
I spent the evening of July 12 at a Citizen Outreach meeting at the Comfort Inn. The project is Rio Ranch Estates, which is located in District 1 in our northwest area of the city along Happy Valley Road, approximately ½ mile west of Grand Avenue. The applicant is requesting approval of a rezone of approximately 188 acres of land.
On Monday July 24, I scheduled a meeting with representatives from Transdev to discuss resolution for some of the problems with their new paratransit transportation system. Attendees included Kate Riley and Katrina Heineking from Transdev, Rob Antoniak with Valley Metro, and David Kohlbeck and Jodi Tas from the city. On the first day of service (July 1), Transdev was not prepared for the transition from Dial-a-Ride to the new program. It was clear they were overwhelmed with the demand. Transdev relayed their apologies and I can appreciate that, but they need to make real progression being on time for their pickups, or we cannot rely on them. My firsthand experience has been a mixed bag; they were on time for a meeting I had in Phoenix both days, but Saturday July 29, I waited an hour and 15 minutes for my return trip to Surprise. I do not believe that is a good way to operate a business.
I attended Northwest Valley Connect Transportation Stakeholders meeting on Thursday, July 27. Kate Riley from Transdev was present to explain what steps need to be taken to improve Transdev and reliability, so let us hope things get better.
I attended the Project Connect event at Salvation Army in Surprise on Wednesday, July 26. They city’s Human Service and Community Vitality Department partnered with the Salvation Army and United Way to provide services for the homeless. Senator Debbie Lesko was there to thank all of the volunteers for their many hours of service. Volunteers were assigned a homeless person or family upon their arrival to guide them through the process to receive housing, food, clothing, or anything else they may need. There were a number of Surprise employees who also volunteered, including some of our summer youth interns. There were more than 350 volunteers and 216 guests. It was a very sobering event to see how fortunate most of us are.
After a month off, my monthly meetings will begin again. Please don’t forget the meeting this month will be held on Friday, August 11 at 7pm in the Retreat Community Center at Arizona Traditions (18250 W. Weatherby Dr.). Upon arrival, you will see a gate and you will need to enter “0000” on the key pad and tell the guard you are here for my meeting. I would like to thank Neil and his team for the use of his space. I hope to see you there and hear your input, concerns, complaints, or to talk about your vacation. We also accept compliments. City Planner Joshua Mike will also be at the meeting to talk about the Arts & Cultural Master Plan the city is currently working on.
Enjoy the rest of your summer in our beautiful city. Please remember be good to yourself and be good to each other.
Roland F. Winters Jr.