Westminster city council approved a free transportation service for older adults and those experiencing disabilities on July 25.
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“I think it’s a fantastic way to leverage our funds by doubling them to run a pilot program that impacts well over 17% of our community,” City Councilor Sarah Nurmela said.
Nurmela said her mom doesn’t drive, and without services like this, her mom wouldn’t be able to get to places she needs to be.
The city will pay $83,200 and receive another $83,200 from federal grants. Councilors approved the new service by a vote of 6-1, with Councilor Bruce Baker in opposition.
The service begins Aug. 15 for residents 60 and older and people experiencing short or long-term disabilities.
The service is provided through Via Mobility Services and will be a one-year pilot program. It runs Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., excluding holidays.
Participants can ride for free within 15 miles of their home. The only limiting factor is the van the service uses. The service has access to one, six passenger van. However, Debra Baskett, senior transportation and mobility planner, said that the company may dispatch another if needed.
City Councilor Bruce Baker, the only one who voted no, said he was concerned about cost. In the pre-meeting discussion, he asked how many rides the city would be buying.
Since it’s a pilot program, the city doesn’t know and City Councilor Lindsey Emmons requested a report from city staff about how many people are using the service next March.
Baker raised the option of instead using a taxi service, as it may be cheaper. But Baskett noted the money is going towards a company that is reserving a van and a driver for 40 hours a week.
“If you have a job and you sign up ahead of time and say ‘I need a pick up every day at 8:30 Monday through Friday,’ that’s what they are there for,” Baskett said.
She said the service prefers residents to call a week in advance, but they can do it the same day.
“It helps people stay in their home longer and be independent longer,” she said.
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