Silver Key ponders transportation future

       With less money and more demand, Silver Key Senior Services may have to reduce transportation services in 2009, CEO David Shaffer said this week.
       He had been asked for a comment earlier this month in response to funding-cutback indications this fall from both of Silver Key's government financial supporters - Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA).
       Colorado Springs City Council has since restored the $138,000 the city has been annually budgeting for the Westside-based nonprofit agency program that provides free transportation to local residents 60 and over. However, the RTA board, which is expected to vote at its mid-December meeting, will be splitting $310,000 from its reserves among five specialized transportation providers and, as a result, is almost certain not to give Silver Key the $130,000 it received for this year and definitely not the $300,000 it got in 2007, according to Shaffer.
       With about 60,000 no-fee trips this year, Silver Key is the largest single provider of specialized transportation in El Paso County. The other four entities (Goodwill, Community Intersections, Metro Mobility and Fountain Valley Senior Citizen Center) combined for about 40,000 trips.
       Depending on the provider, specialized transportation takes seniors, disabled or disadvantaged people to specific locations, such as medical facilities, grocery stories, recreation or work.
       Silver Key's overall transportation costs will come to just over $1 million this year. In typical years, amounts not covered by local government stipends are mostly covered by private donations. Last year, with the significantly reduced amount from RTA, Silver Key did some belt-tightening, but that will be harder to accomplish this year, Shaffer said. With the bad economy, donations are down 8 to 9 percent and Silver Key is leery of dipping too far into its own cash reserves for fear of coming up short if the economy takes years to rebound. Also, what's “kind of scary,” as Shaffer phrased it, overall requests for Silver Key Services in October were up 70 percent from the same month the year before.
       The overall impact for transportation is that “we could drop the number of our trips,” he said. “We won't know till we get the final numbers from the RTA.”
       No matter what happens with the funding, “My hope is not to have a huge impact to the community,” Shaffer said. He also put out a request for more volunteer drivers (there are 45 now, compared to 9 paid) to ease Silver Key's costs. But if worst comes to worst, he said, “this could be where we prioritize” (for example, medical trips would take priority over grocery trips, and recreation could fall away entirely).

Westside Pioneer article