In December, special needs riders will have an additional option available for getting around town as Carroll County (N.H.) Transit begins offering Dial a Ride service.
The service will be operated through the Carroll County Transit Project, an offshoot of a new program started by Tri County Community Action Programs (Tri County Cap), a not-for-profit organization located in Berlin, N.H. that helps residents in three Northern New Hampshire Counties — Carroll, Coös and Grafton — access emergency assistance.
Dial a Ride will offer shared curb-to-curb rides throughout three different zones in Carroll County. Intended specifically to help senior residents or those with disabilities or health conditions that leave them unable to access public transportation, the service can arrange trips to doctor appointments, senior centers, shopping and social activities.
Dial a Ride will be critical for many senior citizens in the area who are “putting their cars away,” Ted La Liberte, system manager, Tri County Community Action Programs, pointed out.
Four cutaway El Dorado buses, equipped with two wheelchair spots with an eight- to 10-passenger capacity will be used to provide the service.
The service will be funded with New Hampshire Department of Transportation money and from personal donations from several communities in the area. The buses have been purchased with an estimated $250,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. The nickname for the system is the ‘Blue Loon,’ named after the lake and mountain region of New Hampshire.
The fare for riders will range from $2 to $7 depending on travel distance. Senior citizens pay a suggested donation. Medicaid may cover the cost for many riders.
Research was conducted several years ago to assess the best way to put a three phase transportation project together in Carroll County, which would include a public transit route, a demand response system and a volunteer driver component to enhance transportation, LeLiberte said. The Dial a Ride system will be the first phase to go into effect in Carroll County.
“Our goal is to link Moultonborough to North Conway with transit buses as well as door to door and curb to curb dial a ride program,” said La Liberte.
There have been several attempts over the years to put transportation into effect in the area, with various private entities attempting to get a system in place, La Liberte explained. Several years ago, Tri County Cap heard that there was a group that was interested in bringing public transportation to the area and got involved. “They had experience in grant writing and dealing with federal and state grants and they got the wheels going,” he added.
“A big thing for us to get going is to receive the buses. We thought we’d get them at the beginning of the summer, and there were delays. There so many vehicles being purchased through ARRA for small groups like this,” La Liberte said.