Dial-a-Ride honored for 30 years of service to the Niles community

Published 6:36 am Monday, November 1, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - For 30 years, the Niles Dial-a-Ride service has provided the city of Niles with curb-to-curb service for a reasonable price.
At the Michigan Department of Transportation's Annual Passenger Transit Meeting in Frankenmuth, Judy Phillips, manager of the Niles Dial-a-Ride service, accepted an award for 30 years of service.
Residents within Niles can call on the service for curb-to-curb service 363 days a year. The only days the Dial-a-Ride service is unavailable is Christmas and the service's annual training day, held on the second Friday of August.
The Niles Dial-a-Ride started out in 1974 as a two year demonstration project funded by a state grant through M-DOT.
The first home of the service was an old, renovated gas station at the corner of Front and Sycamore streets.
Ten years later, the service relocated to its current facility at 623 N. Second St., but space was limited, forcing drivers to park the company vehicles in the street overnight.
A few years later, a parking lot for the fleet was added to the facility when the city demolished a condemned house next door.
Where once there were five red vans, now there are eight short buses, all lift-equipped to allow handicapped access for Dial-a-Ride riders.
In 1996, the service added a trolley, which has seen its ridership double every year since it's addition. The trolley helps during peak service hours when most drivers are going out on calls.
The trolley is the only vehicle operated by Dial-a-Ride which follows a set route, but it can go slightly off course to pick up or drop off a passenger.
The service is funded through state and federal grants, a local millage which is passed every two years, and the fares paid by riders.
Every vehicle which is replaced is paid for by special grants.
Throughout its 30 years of operation, the Niles Dial-a-Ride has only raised fares once. The service raised fares in 1982 to $1 for adults, and $0.50 for seniors and disabled riders.
Phillips said the service prides itself on how cost effective it is to run. "We pinch our pennies really hard here," she said.
Phillips said the operating budget increase only two to four percent each year. "Our funding is strong and we've saved money over the years, so we are fiscally secure."