Senior transport service in Princeton now avoiding bumps in the road

Current provider Greater Mercer TMA to bid on one-year contract

By: Courtney Gross
   After pick-up problems and drop-off difficulties from a previous operator, Princeton’s senior transportation service now seems to be running smoothly.
   Currently operated by Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association, or the Greater Mercer TMA, the countywide nonprofit organization has been running Crosstown 62 for several weeks and, Princeton officials said, so far so good.
   But because of the constraints of a three-month agreement, the service’s contract, which is under the joint Princeton Human Services Department, has already been put out for bid.
   Township Administrator Jim Pascale said the Human Services Commission had not been satisfied with its previous provider — A Princeton Taxi — and in order to keep service continuing the township quickly contracted with Greater Mercer TMA for a three-month period starting last month.
   If it had contracted for longer, the municipality would have had to put the contract out for bid, officials said.
   Now that the senior taxi service is running smoothly, officials said, the township has released a bid notice to follow through with a full one-year contract. The period for submission of bids closes this week.
   But some Princeton officials are hoping to continue with Greater Mercer TMA.
   Township Committeeman Lance Liverman said the public bidding process occurring now is a result of the commission’s dissatisfaction with its previous provider, not with Greater Mercer TMA.
   "It wasn’t to the level we wanted it," Mr. Liverman said of the former provider of Crosstown 62. "So we went ahead and moved on to find another provider."
   Sandra Brillhart, executive director of Greater Mercer TMA, said the organization has put in a bid for the year-long contract and hopes to continue its service in Princeton. The organization, she said, was approached by Princeton officials late last year to take over the senior transportation service.
   "From our perspective it was going really well," Ms. Brillhart said. "All the feedback we’ve received has been very" positive.
   Greater Mercer TMA has two full-time drivers to serve seniors in Princeton, she added.
   The director of Princeton’s Human Services Department, Cynthia Mendez, said under the previous provider the department received complaints that some seniors were never picked up.
   "Coming after a year or more of problems, this is good news," Ms. Mendez said of seniors’ satisfaction with Greater Mercer TMA at last week’s Human Services Commission meeting. "(Greater Mercer TMA) is really bending over backwards to work with us."
   With the TMA, Crosstown 62 is operating under a coupon system for one-way rides. Each one-way fare costs $2 and so far, Ms. Mendez said, the department has sold 656 coupons.
   The senior transportation service operates strictly within Princeton’s borders and is for those 65 years or older, or the disabled. It runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and coupons must be purchased in advance of the scheduled pick-up.
   Coupons can be purchased at the Human Services Department at 380 Witherspoon St., the Borough Housing Authority at 2 Clay St., the Senior Resource Center at Spruce Circle or the Suzanne Patterson Center.