Lyons to subsidize cabs for seniors, disabled
By Steve Metsch
Senior citizens and the disabled who reside in Lyons will be able to get cab rides for half-price with a new program that uses a discount card.
It’s a revision of a program that had used discount coupon booklets. As before, the village pays half the cost.
Lyons is the first community to use the card system in cooperation with Blue Cab, based in Forest Park, said Jack Gavin, the cab company’s director of marketing and sales.
Frank Torres, Lyons’ parks and recreation director, is in charge of the program for the village. He researched several companies.
“We got rid of the old paper coupons. We got into using what is like a gift card, per se. We’ve partnered with Blue Cab. Lyons is actually the first to do this, so it’s kind of nice. Blue Cab is local, out of Forest Park, and is family owned,” Torres said.
“All their taxi cabs are clean, have GPS units, and are video- and audio-recorded. The police are excited about that for safety. If there is a senior with dementia, for example, they’d be able to track them because everything is recorded,” Torres said.
The cards are sold at the village hall. When residents use the card, they call the Blue Cab company, set up a ride, and when the ride arrives, slide the card through a device like a credit card, and get a printout of their balance, Torres said.
The old way was a paper coupon system “and we had a lot of residents who maybe lost them, or didn’t have enough,” Torres said.
There were some problems with a system the administration inherited when Chris Getty took office as mayor eight years ago, he said.
“We tried to fine tune it six years ago and we kept the same format. We changed the coupons, we made them more distinctive, multiple colors so people couldn’t copy them, but we still had an issue where people were copying them,” Getty said.
Blue Cab replaces two other cab companies the village had worked with before, Torres said.
Residents pay $25 for the $50 cards. The village picks up the other half of the cost.
“The paper coupons were hard to track in terms of auditing and possible fraud. This is easier to keep track of for us and it’s easier on the seniors in that they don’t have to carry a bunch of coupons with them,” Torres said.
“The seniors that have been taking it have been very pleased with Blue Cab and the way we are doing this. Blue Cab is excited about it and we’re excited about it,” Torres said.
Gavin said the card system gives the village “better control.”
“Most of the communities would do little coupon booklets, but what they found was there was a likelihood of people to photocopy coupons or even lose the coupons,” Gavin said.
“From an administrative standpoint, we love the idea of Lyons doing it this way. If they wanted to, there’s the technology to determine where most of the seniors are going, how often do they use it, and if the increment enough on the cards,” Gavin said.
He expects eventually the cards can be reloadable, like store gift cards, so the same card can have value added to it if the allocation has been exhausted, Gavin said.
“Certainly, the capability is there to re-up. They keep the same card, and it’s all done there in the village hall,” Gavin said.
Blue Cab has been in business more than 90 years, Gavin said. “The near west suburbs have been the hub for many, many years,” Gavin said.
You can visit www.bluecab.us for more information about the company.
The change was discussed at length during a recent meeting of the village board’s finance committee before it was approved in March.
“Part of the issue is the paperwork,” village manager Tom Sheahan said at the finance committee meeting.
Using the card “makes a lot more sense,” Sheahan told the committee. Seniors with vouchers remaining from the former system would be able to add that to the card, he said.
The village is expected to spend $12,000 to $13,000 annually on the program, Sheahan said. That’s in line with what was spent in previous years.