Seniors seeking year-round ride service
Members of the Senior Advisory Committee are hoping to create a senior ride program that will last all year, but the Motor Vehicles for Hire Commission, who they pitched the idea to, are skeptical it can be run during the summer months.
Senior Coordinator Gloria Redlich said a pilot program initiated last year was a success, so much so the group would like it to continue throughout the year. “It was a really popular program. It served a vital purpose to get people out of their homes, to visit friends and do errands,” she said. “It addresses the issues of loneliness and isolation. It’s not superficial.” Redlich added that getting seniors out and about also helps “to contribute to the economy of the island.” Those seniors who take rides pay a $3 fee to the cab driver and the remaining part of the fare is subsidized by the SAC.
Marthens asked the members of the SAC — Co-chairs Sandra Kelly and Gail Pierce were also in attendance — who would be eligible for the program. “What constitutes a senior and would this be year-round. Would it be islanders only?”
He added that the program was “admirable,” but said, “Not sure how this would work in the summer.”
Redlich said the season would run from the end of September to the end of April or the beginning of May. The pilot program ran in February and March of this year.
Redlich said that the SAC would create a list of people needing the service, and that list would be shared with the taxi drivers providing the service. (Redlich later said that one cab owner, Vin McAloon, has signed up to provide the service but there would probably be two.)
Redlich also said that the SAC would work with the commission to define who qualifies as a senior, and special needs person.
McAloon, who is also the Vice Chair of the MVFH, said that “the off-season is easy enough to figure out” but that “in the summer I see great difficulty.”
“Summertime? Forget it. I can’t see it,” said cab owner Judy Clark. She suggested that the SAC purchase its own vehicle and hire a driver.
“July, August and September I thought were record-breaking, huge numbers,” said McAloon. The downside was that “a lot of cabs weren’t out very much” which led to longer waits for customers. “We need to be out there,” said McAloon. He added that there were more people on the island this past summer, perhaps due to the new high speed ferry service from Long Island, which began this year.
Cab owner Champ Starr said the “bigger issue is we were saturated” with vehicle traffic, which held up rides.
McAloon said a meeting should be scheduled on the topic.
“We can’t solve the traffic problem,” said Clark.