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City to pick up tab for airport transport
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MONROE - Those who land planes at the Monroe Airport can now come into town and pay a visit free of charge, thanks to a new voucher program.

The city's Airport Management Board agreed March 25 to implement the program with Brown Cab Company and Flying L Transit as its partners. Pilots and their guests landing at the airport for either business or recreation hand the voucher to the transportation provider and it in turn submits it to the city for full reimbursement at the full fare. The service is restricted to the city limits and the average one-way fare is $6.50, according to City Administrator Phil Rath.

"This should be good for tourism and our local businesses," said Rath, who said the program will be monitored for a year to track usage and its costs.

It should be much cheaper than providing the airport with a courtesy car - an idea that had its tires kicked for several years.

"I'd get people asking if we had one as many as four times per week," said Rob Driver, the airport's supervisor. "Not having anything to offer was even holding some people out."

Having seen a similar program work well for area seniors, Driver suggested the voucher idea as an alternative.

"It should cost less than a quarter of what you'd be paying with a courtesy car, which would require commercial insurance that would run around $1,200 per year," he said. "Plus, you're only paying for actual use. With a courtesy car, you might have it sitting around during the winter months but you still have to insure it."

Said Rath, "This system should be much more efficient and effective."

After a year, the city will weigh its options with the program - one of which may be to ask providers to share in the fees.

"I see no problem with that," said Jackie Ritschard, manager of Brown Cab's Monroe location, who estimated her company receives about five calls per month from people requesting rides from the airport. "We see a great benefit with this."

The cab company does not operate on Sundays, yet Flying L Transit does. The bus-line company, whose fleet includes 15-passenger vans, charges a $20 round-trip flat rate into downtown Monroe from the airport, according to owner Larry Leopold.