The topic of government providing transportation to seniors came up during our budget study sessions. Combined, the city and county currently provide a senior lunch program. The discussion was around the cost and value of increasing services like transportation to receive this lunch service.
Like many cities, San Jose has facilities that serve residents, such as community centers, libraries and parks. These facilities are typically scattered around cities so that all areas of the municipality may utilize them.
But if the city is being asked to provide transportation for seniors to community centers, why not expand this to libraries as well? Libraries offer social engagement and lifelong learning. Perhaps we should promote the value of fresh air and open space with daily transportation to Alum Rock Park.
We also have youth under 16 that are unable to drive and they certainly would benefit from free transportation to parks, libraries and community centers. In some communities, youth get free bus rides with a library card.
Allowing residents to access their government in person is another shared value. Perhaps providing free transportation to City Hall for the many public meetings occurring Monday through Friday?
The cost for point-to-point round trip transportation is $12.50 to $20, while the cost of a senior lunch provided is $6 with a requested $2.50 donation. Does it make sense to spend more on transportation than the meal? There is value providing socialization opportunities for seniors and a meal.
At a potential cost of $18.50 to $26.50 per person, should the city consider a gift certificate to an eatery that may be closer to the resident than a city facility and benefit a small business owner? Off the topic of transportation, but related, should the city build and maintain fitness centers or instead negotiate a low rate at private fitness clubs for residents that would avoid operation and maintenance costs to the city budget?
Should government, via VTA, provide free public transit to both seniors and youth? What if the community serving facility or the resident’s home is not next to a bus line? Maybe the City could add a requirement to its taxi license permits that requires a certain number of free or reduced rides for youth and seniors? Does a separate transit agency like VTA serve the goals of the city and county? Or maybe we should allow private vans, like Jeepney’s in the Philippines, to deliver people point to point?
Although all of these services have a value, we cannot ignore the cost.
I really appreciate the city of San Jose’s partnership with the county of Santa Clara to continue a senior lunch program. Thank you to the county of Santa Clara and the work of Supervisor Liz Kniss and Councilmember Pete Constant on maintaining this service.