Bluegrass Cab has taken over and is expanding a Lextran program shuttling Lexingtonians to and from work, but the cost is going up.
Beginning Monday, the cab company will provide rides to and from work within the metro area of Lexington through its Ride to Work program.
For the past few years, Bluegrass Cab has been operating a service that picks employees up at their workplaces and gives them a ride home and vice versa, but, as when Lextran operated it, the service has been limited in hours and in the geographic area it covered. Many of the participants are lower-wage earners working third-shift jobs.
Lextran had subsidized the program out of its operating budget, so riders paid only $1 per trip.
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Lextran is now going to stop subsidizing the program, said Lextran spokeswoman Jill Barnett.
Bluegrass Cab will charge between $4 and $15 per person per ride, depending on how many passengers are being picked up, said Don Daugherty, general manager at Bluegrass Cab.
For example, if only one person is riding, the fare would be $15. Four riders would pay $4 each.
Before the price change, Daugherty said about 120 passengers had subscribed to the service; Bluegrass transports about 70 of them each day.
He said there initially may be a decrease in ridership among current participants, but he expects to see it quickly rebound and then grow.
"There's definitely growth potential with it," Daugherty said.
Bluegrass Cab has been spreading the word at the University of Kentucky and at Amazon, two of the primary employers where workers use the service.
He said the company is updating its website, bgcab.com, to promote the service.
Some current riders are worried about the added expense they will incur without Lextran's subsidy.
Chapple Lewis has been using the service since before Bluegrass Cab took over, when it was provided through Lextran as the jobs bus.
She said she is concerned because of the price increase, particularly because the cab company cannot guarantee a set price for her ride home. The price would fluctuate if the number of people riding with Lewis changes.
"By the time I pay all my bills, I have to scrape," Lewis said. "I don't know what to do."
She said that even if there are always enough people to keep her rides at $4 each, the total is still "$80 a month, when we're used to paying $20 a month."
Daugherty said "this program is going to be greatly discounted over our regular rates."
And he said $4 or $5 rides are "more than reasonable."
He said riders will have to provide their work schedules in advance, so Bluegrass Cab can plan for how many people it will be picking up and group riders according to their destinations.
Participants will be required to prepay for the service by buying a Bluegrass Cab gift card.