March 24, 2010

Web Extra: Utah partners with company to transport seniors


Scott McBeth, (shown fourth from the left) and Steve Fuller (shown fourth from the right) joined Orem City Council members for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting last month for the newly launched senior transportation service.


Utah’s Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG) Division of Adult and Aging Services and American Fork, Utah-based Seniors Out and About have teamed up to provide transportation for senior citizens in the Provo-Orem area.

Launched in January, the Seniors Out and About transportation service picks up seniors at their homes and takes them anywhere in the Provo-Orem area on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Seniors pay an $8 one-way fare for the service, and the rest is covered by the state. Discount deals are available, including a monthly pass at $50.

In 2008, Wasatch Transportation Inc., the parent company of Seniors Out and About, responded to a Request for Proposal, put out by the Utah Division of Aging and Adult Services, for a pilot transportation service for seniors in the Provo and Orem area. 

”[Wasatch] wanted to branch out into the senior market and do senior transportation, but didn’t really have a vehicle to do that,” explained Steve Fuller, CEO, Seniors Out and About.

Scott McBeth, director, MAG aging department, said that the MAG organizes programs that help seniors remain healthy and independent and access to transportation is a crucial element of people remaining independent.

“There’s a great need for more and better transportation. So we’ve been interested for a long time and have been looking at different ways to get involved,” McBeth added.

Programs like the pilot Seniors Out and About are needed in the area, McBeth said, because not all seniors qualify for local transit or paratransit programs. “It doesn’t work for seniors, to get to the bus stop, to wait in the weather, whether it’s hot cold or raining, and then transferring perhaps multiple times. The amount of effort that takes doesn’t work for seniors. That’s why alternative transit systems are needed.”

In August, 2009, the Utah Division of Aging and Adult Services agreed to provide $150,000 in start-up funding for the program, including money for market research. “[We had] to demonstrate a need, which was easy to do, since there are a lot of seniors out there that don’t have transportation, don’t qualify for UTA [paratransit], and still can’t drive and have to rely on family or friends,” Fuller said. Seniors Out and About began market research, bus acquisition and driver training in August and started operating the service the third week in January. “It’s been slowly building, with seniors finding out about us, via word of mouth and brochures," added Fuller.

The program currently consists of two StarTrans vehicles, both with wheelchair access. So far, nearly 50 seniors have been able to take advantage of the program. Seniors Out and About also recently partnered with (MAG) to offer round trip rides to approximately 70 of the agency’s Meals on Wheels customers.

The company is planning to use GPS routing and RFID technology to reduce office, fuel and driver labor costs and to keep the service efficient. “If somebody calls and we have a route already scheduled for the day we can just add that on the fly," said Fuller. "We know where our buses and people are at any given moment, so if there is a problem on a bus, we can pinpoint its location and direct medical personnel or whomever directly to the bus.”

The pilot program is expanding to other areas in Utah County and may expand to cover all of Utah County by the end of 2010.

 

 

 

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