Non-profit group will offer rides for medical appointments and food shopping

At their meeting on Monday, town councillors heard about plans to offer Sackville residents low-cost transportation for out of town medical appointments and grocery shopping.

Kelly Taylor, manager of Rural Rides, says the non-profit, volunteer group is launching a six-month pilot project of its door-to-door service in the Tantramar region beginning this June.

“Door-to-door is a community-based solution designed to address the lack of affordable transportation in an area,” Taylor told council. “Door-to-door programs are run by non-profits and the groups co-ordinate volunteer drivers to pick up clients who have reserved a drive a minimum of 48 hours in advance.”

Taylor said that members of low-income families will pay 25 cents per kilometre, while others will be charged 70 cents.

“But all of our programs have funds set aside for those who can’t even afford the low rate of 25 cents…The service is designed to reach those people who have fallen through the cracks.”

She added that typical clients include the elderly, people with disabilities and isolated rural residents.

Door-to-door rides are currently being offered in parts of Albert County as well as in Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe.

“Ultimately, we want to expand our service to cover all of the Westmoreland and Albert Counties to ensure that no individual is without affordable or reliable transportation.”

Won’t compete with local taxis

Taylor told council her group has been talking to the taxi companies in Sackville and has agreed not to give people door-to-door rides within town limits, but will transport clients for out of town medical services and grocery shopping during the six-month trial period. If the service is successful, it could be expanded to include transportation for other purposes including social engagements or recreation.

She asked Town Council to publicize the new service to help attract clients as well as volunteer drivers who supply their own vehicles. Drivers are paid 35 cents per kilometre for fuel and expenses and can also be reimbursed for supplemental liability insurance.

Taylor promised to report back to council in the fall on how the pilot project is working out.

Meantime, Councillor Bill Evans welcomed the plan.

“I’ve heard some tragic stories about people missing appointments and people who have pension cheques that are sitting on the fridge they can’t cash because they can’t get to town,” he said. “If you can make this work, that would be wonderful.”

To register as a Rural Rides client, to volunteer as a driver or to make a financial contribution, call (506)-215-2100.

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