Business is booming for the North Oakland Transportation Authority (NOTA).
Last year, the local transportation service provided a total of 38,877 rides, which is 5,008 (or 15 percent) more than 2016.
“I think we’ve handled it very well,” said NOTA Director Lynn Gustafson. “I think we’ve been able to grow to meet the need and we’re willing to continue to grow as long as the need is there.”
NOTA provides low-cost, publicly-subsidized transportation for senior citizens, individuals with physical and/or developmental disabilities, and low-income folks living in Oxford, Addison and Orion townships along with the villages of Oxford, Leonard and Lake Orion.
It’s primarily funded by local taxpayers via a mix of contributions from the municipalities and a dedicated property tax approved by voters in 2014 and 2015. The tax rate was originally 0.25 mill, but the Headlee Amendment has reduced it slightly.
NOTA charges its users $1 each way for rides within the three townships and $2 each way for destinations outside the townships, but still within the authority’s 223-square-mile service area.
Most of last year’s rides were given to residents of Orion (18,690) and Oxford (18,094). The remaining 2,093 rides went to residents of Addison and Leonard.
Senior citizens, with and without disabilities, accounted for the largest number of rides, a total of 16,688.
That was followed by 15,534 rides for individuals with physical and/or developmental disabilities, and 6,655 rides for low-income folks.
To accommodate the increase in rides, Gustafson said NOTA hired four more part-time drivers, bringing the total number up to 28, and added 52 more hours of service time to the weekly schedule.
NOTA vehicles are now on the road a combined 694 hours a week. There are 15 vehicles running on a daily basis Monday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, NOTA has two vehicles per day on the road.
“We’re open to adding additional routes if the need arises. It’s basically supply and demand,” Gustafson said. “We’re constantly reviewing the routes (on a) monthly (basis).”
Last year, NOTA drivers logged a total of 484,149 miles on the road – 48,077 miles more than in 2016.
Looking to the future, Gustafson said, “I think we’re going to continue to grow.”
“It seems like we’re getting more and more applications every week,” she continued. “I don’t see this decreasing at all.”
NOTA is constantly looking for new ways to better serve its ridership, enhance safety and save money.
It’s currently in the process of having digital video/audio recording systems installed in all 19 of its vehicles.
The cameras will allow NOTA supervisors and officials to “see what actually happened,” Gustafson said, in the event of accidents, rider complaints, he-said/she-said situations and other issues.
Eighteen of the vehicles will be equipped with four cameras and one with three cameras.
“There’s a camera that is focused on the road. There’s a camera focused on the driver. There’s a camera focused on the riders and one on the (wheelchair) ramp (or lift),” Gustafson explained.
The NOTA board approved spending $34,100 to equip their vehicles with these systems purchased from the Madison Heights-based Excels Mobile Video Solutions, Inc.
Installing the cameras will lower NOTA’s insurance premiums by approximately $3,000 annually, according to Gustafson.
Gustafson hopes more folks will take some time to learn about NOTA.
“I’m surprised by how many people don’t really know about our service,” she said. “A lot of people still don’t realize that we’re out there.”
To learn more, please visit www.notaride.org.