With transportation options for Carlisle’s working class limited, volunteers are stepping up to fill the void.
Carlisle Area Ride Service was launched in 2017 to offer rides to low-income residents with limited access to transportation, according to the organization’s website, carlislearearideservice.com.
Volunteers have driven more than 1,500 miles to transport more than 100 clients to medical appointments, job interviews, Project SHARE, school meetings, career training services and government offices.
Without using names, the website shares stores of the people who have benefited from the service. In one instance, drivers helped a mother take her son to counseling for more than a year, saving them from walking five miles, round-trip. They’ve helped riders get to treatment for opioid addiction and brought mothers and their babies home from the hospital, among other stories.
Ride coordinator Stephen Hughes explained the service in this week’s five questions.
Q. When did CARS start and why?
A. CARS started two years ago when the CAT bus stopped running in Carlisle and I met a young woman at the homeless shelter spending most of her income on Uber to get her two children to day care and get her to her job.
Q. How do people request rides?
A. Riders send an email or text to CARS with pick up date, pick up time, address, destination and your time. All requests need to be sent before Friday 9 p.m. for the following week
Q. How many volunteers are serving with CARS, and do you need more?
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A. We have 18 on the books, but currently only 10 are active drivers. We always welcome more drivers. We can never have too many. We don’t have any “requirements” to be a driver except a willingness and a cellphone.
Q. Uber and Lyft have dealt with questions about their safety. What does CARS do to make the trips safe for volunteers and the riders?
A. All riders are required to complete a registration. CARS will do a search on the Carlisle Police website and on Facebook. In two years we have had two people who came up with a police record. One had a DUI and we helped him get to his AA meetings. The other was for traffic violations. We had no problem transporting either of these people. We would not knowingly transport any one that had violence in their history.
Q. How has the service been received by both volunteers and the community you are serving?
A. Some volunteers are more active than others. As most are retired, we do have inactive drivers temporarily due to surgery. At one time, we had two drivers out with knee surgery and one with hip surgery. Some of our drivers are snow birds and only available certain months. Most are grandparents who help out with child care or have other family responsibilities. Even if a volunteer driver can only give us one day a month to drive it all helps. We can not have enough drivers.
I think most of our riders are appreciative of what we do. I have never heard anyone complain. A rider might prefer riding with CARS as there is less waiting for return journeys from their appointments.
If they are eligible for Rabbit Transit for medical appointments, we do refer them as we do not want Rabbit to reduce services. We want them to increase services.
There is frustration for volunteers when we drive a rider to a job interview out on Allen Road and the Harrisburg Pike where they get the job, but then have to quit when they have no reliable way to get to and from the job. If we had more drivers, we might be able to help get them the job and they get their first paycheck. Even after getting a paycheck, the $30+ a day cost of Uber or Lyft takes a huge chunk of their pay, and there are not always an Uber or Lyft available to get them to work on time, which can lose them their job.
The county recently held a meeting on transportation with representatives from CAT bus, Rabbit Transit, warehouse employers, other agency officials and community stakeholders. With all the 15-seater vans sitting empty out on Ritner Highway, it is frustrating that elected officials cannot help people trying to work their way out of poverty and get to a job where employers are desperate for workers. We currently have a Go Fund Me Campaign if the community wants to support our project. It’s at https://www.gofundme.com/manage/helping-low-income-residents-with-transportation.