The community’s transit authority partnered with the Red Cross, a local First Nations and other organizations and recruited volunteers to drive accessible vehicles.
Simcoe County, Ontario, Canada, has experienced significant population growth over the past generation. It’s expected that this community of 350,000 will expand to 555,000 by 2051. One of the fastest growing populations in the county are seniors over age 65. But in this county 54 miles northwest of Toronto, 13% of residents have reported experiencing food insecurity. The County’s Poverty Reduction Task Force estimates that almost 50,000 residents are living in poverty.
While Simcoe County has six fixed route bus lines, less than 2% of residents use public transportation. These fixed routes are often inaccessible to seniors, who can require assistance while travelling. For seniors who don’t have a car or a regular support person to help them with their travel, they struggle to get themselves to regular medical appointments for non-emergencies like dialysis, chemotherapy, check-ups, and vaccinations.
“It’s so stressful when you are caring for someone, trying to find them rides to and from appointments. We are hoping to alleviate that stress and that internet searching, with this one-stop shop website, for those in Simcoe County looking for safe, easy and accessible transportation to medical appointments,” CT Link’s spokesperson Jules Roebbelen told local news outlet Collingwood Today.
CT Link, Simcoe’s public transit agency, partnered with community organizations to provide vehicles and volunteer drivers to offer door-to-door service for qualifying seniors. They combined these resources in an online portal and phone app for clients to use to schedule their ride in advance. Intake workers will then reach out to the client to identify their needs and how to best support them.
“We have a fleet of 39 vehicles, 25 of which are wheelchair accessible vans. We will drive you door to door on your schedule,” Roebbelen explained.
The program is primarily designed to help seniors get to medical appointments, but they are willing to transport clients to social appointments as well, if they have the capacity to do so. Rates for the rides vary depending on distance travelled, and clients are permitted to bring a person to assist them on their journey at no additional cost.
By working with known community-based organizations, CT Link clients are supported by drivers who are experienced in working with seniors. The program has had over 330 requests for accessible transportation through their website and has gotten positive feedback from clients.