October 20, 2009

Calif. retirement community offers diverse transit options



The Valle Verde Retirement Community, located in Santa Barbara, Calif., has invested in building a fleet of vehicles to provide a variety of transportation options to its residents. Valle Verde offers independent living, assisted living, Alzheimer's care and skilled nursing on its 60-acre campus.

"Our goal is to allow our residents to get basically from their door to almost anywhere in the Santa Barbara area without having to use their private car," Executive Director Ron Schaefer says.

From the facility's centrally located administration office, residents can catch a free ride on a 12-passenger coach that runs six days a week to any requested location. To catch a ride back to Valle Verde, residents call the front office, which contacts the driver by radio for pick up.

Also available to residents is a private chauffeured ride in a hybrid Toyota Camry sedan for time-sensitive appointments. Valle Verde's fleet also includes a wheelchair lift van, which is primarily used for transporting skilled nursing residents to and from the hospital, and a large bus for transporting groups on activity trips, such as symphony performances.

When it comes time to replace either the large bus or 12-passenger coach, "we'll definitely be looking at an alternate fuel, whether it's liquid propane, a hybrid or another option," Schaefer says.

The latest addition to the Valle Verde fleet is an electric tram or people mover, similar to a golf cart, which can carry up to nine passengers. "We just got the vehicle and we're in the process of putting in about 24 tram stops around our campus that would be a short walk from anybody's apartment," Schaefer says. "It's got a solar panel roof, so it recharges the batteries as it's driving around."

With the 15 electric golf carts used by facilities and maintenance staff on campus, the people mover, wheelchair lift van, hybrid Camry, two coaches and an older Nissan Maxima as a standby, Valle Verde maintains a fleet of about 21 vehicles. Three drivers operate the coaches and lift van, and the community is in the process of hiring for its people mover.

 

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