Ride Connection adds outer East Portland service

Learn how the new ‘Lents/Powellhurst-Gilbert RideAbout’ service improves the quality of life for those who can’t drive …

With the help of East Portland Chamber of Commerce members Richard Kiely of Home Run Graphics, Rich Sorem of Stewart & Tunno Insurance Agency Inc., and Ed Bejarana of Znith Exhibits, RideAbout patron Willie Hall cuts the ribbon to dedicate the service.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
There’s a new way for older folks and the disabled to get around in outer East Portland. It’s called the “Lents/Powellhurst-Gilbert RideAbout”.

“We surveyed the community and found that there is a need for shuttles to take people who can’t drive out for shopping or medical appointments, and other areas,” explained James Uyeda, development manager at Ride Connection. “These individuals can’t always get a ride with friends or relatives; we fill in gaps to help them get where they want to go.”

Standing next to one of the new Lents/Powellhurst-Gilbert RideAbout busses, Ride Connection’s James Uyeda says the new service provides more benefits than simply getting a lift.

Ride Connection, Uyeda told us, provides transportation options, resources, and services for older adults and people with disabilities in the Tri-County area. “We work with 30 community service partners, including Metropolitan Family Services. We’re here at Eastport Plaza to kick off the new mid-Multnomah County services with one of three of our shuttles.”

Service beyond TriMet
Although TriMet gives rides to individuals who qualify for ADA para-transit services, Uyeda said anyone who’s 60 years of age or older, or anyone with a temporary or permanent disability, can call the new ride service center and get the transportation they need.

Beyond getting a ride, we asked if the service provides other benefits.

“This new services gives people the ability to come and go as they please,” replied Uyeda. “It gives them a sense of independence. Recent studies have shown that having access to reliable transportation for older adults helps them be able to remain in their homes. It gives them the ability to go out and feel part of the community.”

Metropolitan Family Services’ Krista Larson says the service helps “make connections” in addition to providing transit.

Service adds richness to lives
At the September 25 ribbon-cutting ceremony, Krista Larson, representing Metropolitan Family Services, told those attending, “Our mission is to strengthen families and individuals, while connecting them in the community. But equally important, is the connections which the service makes.

“The first person who got off the bus today, when it rolled up, was an old friend of mine. That kind of connection shows us how important the service is. We see it as a win-win situation; it provides richness to all of our lives.”

Opening this ride service will provide 30,000 rides next year. “This is the ‘tip of the iceberg’ in providing for the community’s needs,” Larson added. “We look forward to serving members in this community.”

Mark Morley, also with Metropolitan Family Services, says the service offers both bus, and private car transportation.

Volunteers facilitate many rides
At the event, Mark Morley, a program coordinator with Metropolitan Family Services, told us that the service they provide is twofold.

“First, we have three buses that will operate in outer East Portland,” described Morley. “And, there’s also a component in which individuals take others to destinations in their private vehicles.”

Last year, Morley added, volunteers provided over half of the hours logged, either driving service-owned vehicles or their own individual vehicles. “Volunteers are a critical part of the service.”

Looking on is Betty Vasser; she’s both a client and a volunteer with Metropolitan Family Services Ride Connection.

Looking forward to new ‘school bus’ ride
“I’m so thrilled!” exclaimed Betty Vasser who is both a client and a volunteer with Metropolitan Family Services Ride Connection.

“It’s really a great thing for older folks. In addition to shopping and medical appointments, when I go back to school, in the middle of October, I’ll be riding on Ride Connection.”

There is no charge for the RideAbout circulator shuttle, but donations are an important part of the transportation program, and are encouraged.  Drivers are happy to help with assistance through the door and carrying of shopping bags, at their own discretion.

To request a trip on the Lents/Powellhurst-Gilbert RideAbout, or with the greater Mid-Multnomah County U-Ride, customers can call the Ride Connection Service Center at 503-226-0700 to speak with a Travel Navigator.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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