Many Ahwatukee Foothills seniors depend solely on community and city services for transportation, particularly to make doctor's visits. But on July 26, the city's ALEX circulator underwent some cutbacks, and the Dial-a-Ride program that allowed seniors to make reservations for bus transportation reduced its services. Now, the only passengers eligible to use the city's Dial-a-Ride program are those certified by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Further, reservations must be made in advance.
The reduction in these services means seniors who are not ADA-certified will have to find alternate forms of transportation. This poses a problem for many seniors unable to drive, who have no family available during daytime hours to help. Y OPAS, the YMCA's Outreach Program for Ahwatukee Seniors, has long served the community's senior population and their caregivers. The non-profit organization, fully staffed by volunteers, provides free transportation to seniors 62 and better.
"Now there are just a few options available for seniors in Ahwatukee," said Maureen Davies, a longtime Y OPAS volunteer. "These include the Senior Cab program sponsored by the city of Phoenix, which provides coupons for subsidized cab service; Reserve-a-Ride, which has limited availability as their primary function is to provide transportation to the city's senior centers, and Y OPAS. For nearly 10 years, we've provided an alternative to the city's services through a network of wonderful community volunteers."
According to Betsy Buxer of the Senior Cab program, cuts to the Dial-a-Ride service have already sharply increased demand. The program allows seniors to purchase coupons that defray the cost of any cab service throughout the Valley. Seniors may purchase two books of coupons each month. The cost is $12, which buys $40 worth of cab services.
"Each coupon is worth $1. Many seniors are used to paying by the trip," Buxer said. "We're trying to educate the community that the coupons, bought at a reduced cost, must be purchased through our office and are used as cash, or, in addition to cash." She suggests seniors inform the cab companies they have the coupons when making their reservations.
Linda Jochim of Y OPAS said she is proud of her organization's tenured history, providing free services to Ahwatukee's seniors. Housed at the YMCA located in Ahwatukee Foothills, Y OPAS supports seniors by meeting their special needs. Volunteers provide rides to doctor's offices and grocery stores and offer respite care so caregivers can take a much-needed break, and more.
"We're always looking to build our roster of volunteers, especially now when the need is greater than ever," Jochim said.
For more information about the Senior Cab program, contact Betsy Buxer at (602) 801-1163. For more information about Y OPAS transportation services and volunteerism, contact Judy Lewisohn at (602) 212-6088.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Diane Meehl is a mother of three, a freelance writer and volunteer. Reach her at email@example.com.