Taxi 1

Dale Orem, of Hermiston, climbs inside a Umatilla Cab Company taxi for a ride to Loneys Martial Arts Center on Main Street in 2015. Taxi driver Mickey Trujillo stands by to close the door. The city of Hermiston approved a new program subsidizing taxi rides to and from work.

HERMISTON — The city of Hermiston continued to expand its public transportation offerings Monday by approving a new program subsidizing taxi rides to and from work.

The West-End Workforce On-Demand Ride Cooperative — or WORC for short — will use state transit tax funds to pay for approximately two-thirds of the price of a ride for workers in the Hermiston, Umatilla and Stanfield area.

“We’re always glad to take state dollars and put them to good use,” mayor David Drotzmann said.

Starting Sept. 2, area residents can bring proof of employment to Hermiston City Hall and buy a punch card stamped with the address of their employer.

Megan Green, a college intern who helped put together the policy manual for the program, said rides must start or end at the work address stamped on the card, but the other end is up to the rider.

“They could get picked up from work and go to the grocery store or go from a friend’s house to work,” she said.

The cheapest punch cards — limited to rides within Hermiston city limits — are $2.50 per ride. The other 65% of the cost will be covered by money from the state’s 0.1% payroll tax, which raises money for counties to use for public transportation.

The city has been approved to receive $78,800 a year for the next three years for the program, subsidizing about 17,500 rides. Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan said the city doesn’t plan to add any of its own money to the program.

WORC will be added to the city’s other two public transit options — a similar subsidy program for senior citizens and disabled riders, and a free bus system known as HART. City councilors voiced support for WORC, which they said could benefit low-income residents who don’t have a car to get to work, but also people who might not be driving due to anything from a DUII conviction to fear of icy roads.

The city will hold two workshops for employers to learn more about WORC on Aug. 21 at noon at the Hermiston Community Center and Aug. 26 at 5:30 p.m. at Hermiston City Hall.

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