Rural Rides has launched a six-month pilot project of its door-to-door service in the Tantramar region, providing residents with low-cost transportation to get to where they need to go when it comes to health care and food needs.
Kelly Taylor, coordinator of Rural Rides, said the non-profit volunteer group offers a community-based solution to help address the lack of affordable transportation in a particular area.
Already covering the Salisbury-Petitcodiac region, Rural Rides has been receiving a number of requests to consider expanding into the Tantramar area and has partnered with Tele-Drive in Albert Country and the Volunteer Centre of Southeastern New Brunswick Volunteer Driver Program, based in Moncton, to assess the demand for the service and to determine the best way to cover this riding in the most efficient way.
“We know there’s a need,” said Taylor.
Already two months into the pilot, Taylor said the service has already provided nearly two dozen rides to Tantramar residents and has nine clients registered. And, as word of mouth continues to spread, “we’re starting to see increased referrals.”
“That’s a very good start,” she said, adding that the program will be assessed again at the four-month mark as well as at the end of the pilot.
Typical clients include seniors, individuals with disabilities (although not currently equipped to handle wheelchairs), and low-income households. The program is also accessed frequently by rural residents to reach essential services within more dense centres.
Members of low-income families will pay a reduced rate of 25 cents per kilometre, while others will be charged 70 cents. There are also subsidies available for those who can’t afford the 25-cent rate.
Rural Rides co-ordinate volunteer drivers to pick up clients who have reserved a drive a minimum of 48 hours in advance. The volunteer driver will pick up clients at their door, take them to their appointment/destination and return them home.
Taylor said currently, Tantramar Rural Rides has recruited seven drivers for the pilot project but can always use more, as sometimes the drivers may not be available on certain days or certain hours.
“It can’t ever be said enough, a few hours a month makes all the difference,” she said, noting that drivers can volunteer as little or as much as they want.
“It’s a great way to build community and connect with other people.”
Drivers supply their own vehicle, but are reimbursed for fuel expenses and any supplemental liability insurance required.
For the six-month trial period, Rural Rides will only be providing transportation to out-of-town medical appointments and for food needs; but that could later include social engagements and recreational events if the program is expanded full-time into the area. Taylor said the goal is not to compete with taxi services within the community so Rural Rides will not be offering drives within town limits during the pilot.
“We really want to help people where the need is most desperate,” she said.
Rural Rides is sponsored by Westmorland-Albert Action and the door-to-door programs are mainly funded through grants from the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation (ESIC) and their sponsoring communities, although donations are always welcome.
Taylor is hopeful the door-to-door service will be brought to the Tantramar region on a permanent basis following the basis and, if that happens, they will be looking to the communities for their support in keeping it going.
“If we determine there is a need, and I believe there is, then we’ll be looking for more involvement.”
To register as a Rural Rides client in Tantramar or to volunteer as a driver, call (506) 988-2101 or visit their website at ruralridesnb.com.