Wanted: better senior transit | SierraSun.com

Wanted: better senior transit

Last February senior Helen Smith came home from the hospital after having surgery. She had stopped driving herself due to injury since January.

But she needed to get the doctor’s office for a follow-up visit in Tahoe City.

“I came home from the hospital and I needed to see a doctor in a couple of days,” Smith explained. She was unable to find appropriate public transportation to get there.

“I finally had to take a taxi because there was no public transportation I could rely on,” she said. The trip cost her more than $20.

The incident sparked Smith’s concern that Truckee area seniors needed more convenient and reliable transportation service.

Truckee Dial-A-Ride, a local transportation service, offers door-to-door service to seniors for $3, one way. But Dial-A-Ride operates from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Seniors can also ride on the Truckee Trolley and the can hook up with the Truckee Area Regional Transit (TART) system, but Smith said it is not always accessible to seniors that have mobility issues.

“One would think its sounds like a lot (of transportation is available), but apparently not,” said Tom Ballou, manager of Truckee Pines Apartments and Truckee-Donner Senior Apartments. “It turns into an all day excursion to get to a doctor’s appointment with various forms of transportation. The transportation system around here is great, but it’s difficult because it’s so spread out.”

He added that seniors have a harder time moving around, making transportation difficult.

Smith has been contacting local government officials since last spring to raise awareness for the need for seniors transportation.

Through her inquiries, Smith discovered that a service called Telecare in the western part of Nevada County is dedicated to provide transportation to seniors and people with disabilities, enabling them to maintain their independence and participate in the community.

Telecare, a non-profit organization, is operated by volunteer and paid drivers. Seniors call Telecare staff the day before they plan to travel to arrange a time. Telecare also has a voucher program, a subsidy program funded by Area 4 Agency on Aging to assist low-income seniors in Nevada County with their cost for public transportation.

“It’s really a pretty simple procedure,” Gold Country Telecare, Inc. Executive Director Don Martin said. “I’ve heard there needs to be a more personal service in the (Truckee) area. Now that I know the need is there, I’m working on it.”

According to Perry Christensen, Nevada County Director of Transportation Services who also serves on the Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association board, it is possible Truckee could get Telecare service early next year.

Truckee Town Manager Steve Wright is looking for office space for the program, and Martin has asked the Nevada County Transportation Commission to fund a Telecare program through the Transit Unmet Needs Process.

Telecare is a United Way agency that is a contracted operation to provide paratransit services in the western part of the county.

“The senior population is growing so quickly,” Christensen said. “Many people cross into the paratransit process every day in Truckee. These individuals will need paratransit service in the future. It’s better to prepare for this now than later.”

Smith said her ultimate goal is for transportation to be available to seniors when urgent and necessary. The transportation should be comfortable and smooth for seniors, she said, referring to a common complaint she has heard from other seniors.

“It’s also an issue of independence,” she said. She said seniors need better transportation, especially in the evening hours, for social purposes and cultural events.

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