"If it wasn’t for Neighbor Rides, God only knows how I would get around or how long it would take. But now I’m glad I don’t have to worry about that.”
– Wiliam, 64, no longer drives
– Wiliam, 64, no longer drives
By recruiting and training drivers, Neighbor Rides adds capacity to specialized transportation service for those in need, providing a comfortable, reliable and social experience for riders while simply getting more wheels on the road. This innovative program connects older adults and persons with disabilities with the essential services they need to improve or maintain their quality of life. This year, United Way will survey all of Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle County riders to evaluate the service, identify areas of improvement and to amplify rider voice to help inform and design better transit systems.
William stopped driving in 2005. Now at 64 years old, he needs regular transportation to access weekly group therapy sessions with his medical provider. William uses Neighbor Rides’ friendly volunteer drivers and SSTA’s easy ride scheduling to request a ride and get connected.
When he moved to Winooski from Burlington two years ago, public transportation became more challenging for William. To get to his appointments on time, he would have had to use a combination of bus and bike, which is especially troublesome in the winter – and he can't rely on family because they don't live locally.
William prefers the efficiency of the service and enjoys getting to know the various personalities of the volunteer drivers. He often checks their clothing for a badge for indication of their job and lifestyle so he can engage them in conversation. For William, Neighbor Rides is like a regular taxi but better.
Access to essential services and regular appointments can be challenging, and even impossible for people like William without adequate transportation. Our investment in Neighbor Rides and the strong community collaboration that support it are providing transportation services that help community members maintain access to health and wellness services.
When we surveyed United Way partners, volunteers, donors, and other community members, we asked their perspective on big problems facing our community. Of all the needs, the most frequently identified one was transportation.
Transportation is essential for everyone. It allows us to access medical care, shop for fresh food and connect to daily activities that help maintain our health and wellness, like visiting family and friends. But one in every five adults 65 and older no longer drives, and our transportation system only reaches 12 percent of older adults. That’s a lot of unmet need in our community.
We work in various ways across our region to support transportation initiatives, including volunteer mobilization for Neighbor Rides, financial support through the program funding grants and convening partners to evaluate system change opportunities. Our partners are Green Mountain Transit (GMT), Special Service Transportation Agency (SSTA), C.I.D.E.R. and the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission.