Resources help fill driving need for rides

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Barbara Ruben

Thousands of older adults in the Washington have difficulty getting to doctor appointments or the grocery store because they no longer drive. Perhaps a close call has made driving too daunting, vision has declined, or other conditions have made driving dangerous for them.

Fortunately, a network of volunteers, discounted taxi services and public transportation can help people still find a ride when they need one. But navigating the choices can be overwhelming. That’s where a new hotline and website called Reach A Ride can help.

Created by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, Reach A Ride provides information in English and Spanish about specialized transportation options for people with disabilities, older adults, low-income commuters and those with limited English proficiency, along with links to programs and services.

ReachARide.org is the first website of its kind that addresses transportation needs for residents throughout the greater Washington area. The service also has a toll-free hotline number: 1-855-732-2427.

“In this region alone, there are approximately 550,000 persons with a disability; 520,000 over the age of 65; 510,000 with limited English proficiency; and 810,000 living in low-income earning households,” said District of Columbia Councilmember Muriel Bowser, who serves as Transportation Planning Board Chair.

“Considered ‘transportation disadvantaged,’ Reach A Ride will provide these individuals with improved access to the transportation information they need to get to work, school, medical appointments or shopping.”

Volunteers step in

One organization using volunteer drivers is the American Cancer Society. Its Road to Recovery program matches volunteers from throughout the Washington area with cancer patients needing rides to medical appointments.

Delores Browder, of Temple Hills, Md., signed up as a volunteer driver as soon as she retired from the Federal Communications Commission last January.

“People with cancer need all the help they can get, including transportation to treatment, and they’re so grateful for Road to Recovery,” said Browder, 63.

“One thing I’ve learned is that even family members very often can’t provide all the help needed. Some of the patients I drive feel bad that I’m having to take them to treatment when they have family.

“But it’s hard for family members to get off work so many times a week. And not being at work sometimes means no pay for them, so it’s just not possible. I’m happy to be able to provide the service.”

The American Cancer Society provides free training for volunteer Road to Recovery drivers. Requirements for volunteering include a good driving record, a valid driver’s license, auto insurance and a vehicle that is in good working condition.

For more information on becoming a Road to Recovery volunteer, or to receive services, call 1-800-227-2345. To volunteer in Northern Virginia, call Brenda Silvia-Torma at (703) 938-5550.

Volunteers with the Senior Connection help provide transportation and other services for older adults in Montgomery County. Volunteers assist those ages 62 and older to maintain their independence and stay in their own homes. Services include escorted transportation to medical appointments, as well as errand and shopping assistance. To either volunteer or obtain transportation services, call (301) 962-0892 or go to http://seniorconnectionmc.org.

Fairfax County’s Volunteer Solutions is seeking volunteers to transport older residents on trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, library and other errands throughout that county.

Volunteers are matched with clients who live in or near their neighborhoods. They arrange schedules for their weekly or bi-weekly meetings. Mileage reimbursement is available. To volunteer or learn more, contact Volunteer Solutions at (703) 324-5406, email DFSAAAvolunteer@fairfaxcounty.gov, or visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dfs/olderadultservices/volunteer-solutions.htm.

If you don’t relish driving in Washington’s infamous traffic, you can still help seniors in need of a ride by volunteering for the Jewish Council for the Aging’s Connect-a-Ride information and referral service. Volunteers are trained to provide free information about rides in Montgomery, Arlington and Fairfax Counties. For more information, call (301) 738-3252 or (703) 323-6494.

Reduced-rate rides

Beyond free rides offered by volunteers, there are some low-cost ways to get around.

Persons with disabilities who are unable to take Metro buses and trains may qualify for MetroAccess, which provides door-to-door shared ride transportation in vans that can accommodate wheelchairs. MetroAccess fares are two times the fastest comparable Metro fare, with a maximum fare of $7 per one-way trip.

For more information, call (301) 562-5360 or see www.wmata.com/accessibility/metroaccess_service.

The D.C. Office on Aging operates the Washington Elderly Handicapped Transportation Service. Arrangements are made to transport seniors to medical appointments, dialysis sessions, appointments with public benefits agencies, banks, and the like. To use the service, riders must contact the Lead Agencies that serve the ward where they live. The main number for the service is (202) 715-7649.

Taxi discounts

Sometimes taxis can be the easiest way to get from point A to point B. But cabs are the most expensive option. That’s why there are numerous discount programs for seniors.

Regency Taxi offers completely free rides for Montgomery County residents age 70 and older. Seniors must provide proof of age.

“The economy was really bad. A lot of our clients in Montgomery County couldn’t afford to pay to get to their doctors or run everyday errands like buying groceries. I came up with the idea to give anyone, age 70 and over, a free ride if needed,” said Regency Taxi President David Mohebbi, who started the “senior citizen bailout” program in 2008. To reserve a ride, call (301) 990-9000 between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.

The Montgomery County Call ‘N’ Ride Program provides taxi rides for low-income residents at least 67 years old or who have a disability. They may purchase up to two $60 coupon books a month at discounts based on income. For example, someone with an annual income between $17,000 and $20,000 would pay $20 for $60 worth of coupons. For information about eligibility for the Call ‘N’ Ride program, call (301) 948-5409.

District residents may also participate in a Call ‘N’ Ride taxi discount coupon program, but it has different requirements. District participants need only be at least 60. The amount of the discount is based on a sliding fee scale, depending on income. For more information, call (202) 715-7652.

Virginia offers several discount taxi services as well. Seniors-On-The-Go! in Fairfax County offers those age 65 or older coupon books for $33 worth of taxi rides for $20.

This program is limited to individuals with an annual income of $40,000 or less for a single person; $50,000 or less for a couple. Call the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services at (703) 877-5800.

Super Senior Taxi coupons are available for Arlington residents age 70 and older. They pay $10 for a coupon book worth $20. For details, call the Arlington County Aging and Disability Services Division at (703) 228-1700.

In addition, taxicab companies serving Arlington offer a 10 percent discount to older passengers and to persons with disabilities. Blue Top Cab Company offers a discount to passengers 55 and above who request the discount of the driver at the time of the trip. Call Blue Top at (703) 243-8294.

Red Top and Yellow Cab companies sell coupon books that are used as fare and turned in at the time of the ride at a 10 percent discount for passengers 65 and above. For information or to purchase discount books, call (703) 525-0900.

Alexandria residents who are at least 60 years old can take $2 Senior Taxi rides to medical appointments, grocery stores and pharmacies within city limits. The price is $2.50 for medical office visits within five miles of city limits. Make your reservation by calling (703) 836-4414, extension 15.

Comments

Prince George's County Maryland

Do you have any information on any of these programs operating in PG or Anne Arundel Counties? I need to find a ride to work for my sister who is 61, has Cerebral Palsy and is deaf. She lives in Odenton, MD which is in Ann Arundel County and has a one day a week job at Prince George's Community College in Largo, MD.

RE: Prince George's County Maryland

Have you tried, http://www.reacharide.org. It looks like you can enter your address and they give you a list of companies that provide transportation in your area.