Slightly Retired

"When I heard the reactions of the Bayview seniors last week after Martha Rose, director of Island Transit, told them about changes to come, particularly in Paratransit, I knew it was time for me to speak up too. The director had come to give information and answer questions on schedule modifications in bus services through next year.Kitty Muzzy spoke of her concern: Thank God for Paratransit. I can't drive any more. What will I do without it! Several others echoed her words. Naomi Buzard nudged me and shook her head, These people have such a good time coming here to have a meal, play a little bingo or cards; it would be a tragedy not to have the service.Some years ago, before Paratransit, the South Whidbey Council on Aging bought a van and gave it to Senior Services for transporting seniors. What a grand gift! However, Senior Services discovered they couldn't afford the insurance. The van was given to the county, which reluctantly took on the business of running a van service for seniors and handicapped.Only a few vans serviced the entire Island. They were small and could not provide for wheelchairs. They brought older non-driving seniors to centers for meals and on certain days would take as many as possible grocery shopping and to medical appointments in Coupeville. There was no transportation to the ferry or for visiting friends or special appointments. Though the county did a good job, it was pressed for money and didn't want to be in the transit business.Many of the Island's older citizens were frequently seen tromping along the highway and back roads, arms filled with grocery bags, hoping someone would stop and offer a ride. Seniors weren't alone on the roads, kids, lots of them, were walking from school to home, to and from a friend's house, always with a thumb out. Whatever the weather, any one without transportation took to hitchhiking, and most of us in cars would stop to give a ride. The present reliable, safe, Paratransit system that the seniors have come to depend on and trust faces serious cutbacks. By a year from now, Paratransit will not be making runs on the feeder routes to pick up seniors. It will have to stick to the corridor lines and only provide service to seniors and handicapped living within three-fourths of a mile from the corridors. That leaves a great many people without a way of getting out of the house, having a social meal at the Senior Center, getting groceries or seeing a doctor. Unless, of course, younger neighbors and friends will be available and willing during the day to drive them.A senior asked Martha Rose if donations would help?We're not looking for a free ride, you know. Martha assured her it was definitely worth considering, Two other seniors said they hoped there wasn't going to be a bus fare--even at 25 cents, they wouldn't be able to afford it.One of the seniors asked about putting a donation box on the buses. Another answered, We tried that a long time ago on the vans, but it didn't work because some of the seniors who couldn't afford a donation,stopped riding the van. Why go backwards? Island Transit has been rated the best, most efficient, no fare Paratransit and diverse route system in Washington State, and third in fixed routes. Other counties have been coming to Whidbey to find out how we do it. It doesn't make sense to turn to meter boxes when one of our neighboring counties tried it and found they were spending something like $435,000 a year to collect $410. Whidbey youth should also be part of our considerations. Young people may not happen to have change in their pockets every day, and when they don't, the thumb will go out and they'll hop into the first car that stops.We residents have been painlessly pre-paying for the transit system at the rate of three-tenths of one per cent, that's 30 cents on $100 of sales tax. With an increase of only another three-tenths of one per cent, Island Transit can continue to provide service for everyone. It's easy on the pocketbook-- especially when figuring the increasing cost of gas and car maintenance.Minnie Parker, who lives near Greenbank and comes to eat at Bayview several days a week, noticed me taking a few notes. She jiggled my arm: Tell them I'm 90 years old and there's no way I can walk to the highway for a bus.Around the Senior CenterTuesday, March 14 at 1 p.m.: Senior Services Annual Meeting, vote for board members and hear about accomplishments of the past year and plans for the coming year.Wednesday, March 15, at 12:30 p.m: Country Law Chat with Ken O'Mhuan, Attorney, focus on How to be an Effective Client. Come and hear Ken's latest lawyer joke and bring your questions.Wednesday, March 15: Reservation deadline for Seattle Symphony Pops Saturday matinee, April 1, featuring Monica Mancini Sings the Movies; cost $45. Call 321-1600.Thursday, March 16, at 9:30-11:30 a.m. and 7:00-9:00 p.m.: Rubber stamping workshops. Different projects offered at each class. For more information and to reserve your spot, call instructor Mary Jane Donohoe, 331-0724. Friday, March 17: Sign-up deadline for trip to Museum of History and Industry on Tuesday, March 21. Visit the Seattle of the 1880s, enjoy a drive through the Arboretum, eat lunch on the waterfront, and take a trolley car ride to a surprise destination. The small sum of $32 covers everything. Call 321-1600 for reservations.A few seats left for The Sound of Music at the Paramount with Richard Chamberlain, a Sunday matinee, April 16, center orchestra seats. Call 321-1600.Senior Center Activity ScheduleMonday, March 13: 8:30 a.m. Swinomish bingo trip, 8:30 a.m. foot clinic by app't., 9 a.m. bridge, 9 a.m. tai chi, 10 a.m. stretch & strengthen, 11:45 a.m. lunch.Tuesday, March 14: 8:30 a.m. foot clinic by app't., 8:45 & 9:45 a.m. tai chi, 10 a.m. Time Together, 10:45 a.m. BRUNCH, 1 p.m. ANNUAL MEETING, 1 p.m. writing group, 3:30 p.m. hulaWednesday, March 15: 10 a.m. quilters, 11:45 a.m. lunch, 12:30 p.m. LAW CHAT, 12:30 p.m. computer class, 3:30 p.m. computer class, 6:30 p.m. BINGO.Thursday, March 16: 9 a.m. flexibility asanas, 9:30-11:30 a.m. RUBBER STAMPING WORKSHOP, 10 a.m. stretch & strengthen, 10 a.m. arts & crafts, 1:30 p.m. Crones, 1:30 p.m. Rainbow singers, 2 p.m. computer class, 7:00-9:00 p.m. RUBBER STAMPING WORKSHOP.Friday, March 17: 9-12 a.m. tax assistance, 9 a.m. bridge, 9-12 a.m. SHIBA by app't., 10 a.m. Time Together, 10:45 a.m. Fun Band, 11:45 a.m. lunch."

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