Marian Hopkins (left) receives a ride from RidePlus, a transportation business that does door-to-door service.

Travis Roemhild/AFN

If there's anything I've learned from sitting in community meetings around Ahwatukee Foothills it's that there is a definite need for more transportation options for kids and seniors.

The city's transportation options are not always reliable or have short hours that don't meet every need. YMCA's Outreach Program for Ahwatukee Seniors does amazing work, but even they can't meet every request. Traditional taxis may not know Ahwatukee well and have always had, in my opinion, a shady reputation.

I'm not the only one who has heard of this need for more personalized transportation options. Edward Hoffman noticed the trend just over a year ago and it inspired his business, RidePlus.

RidePlus is a transportation service that focuses on care for children, seniors and those with disabilities. Each driver is background checked and specially trained to help meet the needs of their clients.

"A lot of people don't understand how traditional transportation services work," Hoffman said. "Taxi services, for instance, use independent contractors. Drivers come and taxi companies are actually set up as leasing companies and they lease vehicles for a fee to the driver each day. As long as the drivers are willing to pay the base fee and meet some level of requirements, the taxi firm gives them a vehicle and it's up to the driver to make their own rules... With us we have trained employees. They are trained before they ever get to service a client. Since we don't use independent contractors we sit down and plan their schedules every day. When they come in they get a list of services that cannot be deviated from, which includes directions to the person's house, where they are going, and any special instructions that need to be managed during the trip. They go there knowing exactly what needs to happen. We're really able to make sure everything our client needs to happen, happens."

Hoffman said his goal for his company was to create an experience more like having a family friend drive you around than a commercial enterprise. In just over a year they've been able to make that happen. Now the company has more than 100 members who subscribe to their services for a monthly fee, and on any given week they transport between 200 to 300 unique riders. They transport clients as young as 8 years old, who just need a ride home from school, to the seniors who need rides to the doctor or the grocery store.

With so many cuts to public transportation in recent years, and more possible cuts to Express and RAPID in the East Valley being discussed, this kind of personalized transportation seems to me like a good fit for the area. So far the model is working well for RidePlus, it recently expanded to a second service center operating out of Florida.

Hoffman says prices for their services are very comparable to normal taxi services, but that they charge based on time rather than mileage. They also have monthly subscriptions that can be cheaper than a taxi.

For more information on the company, visit www.rideplus.net or call 1-877-743-3090.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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