Beverly Ward's Ambassador Blog: February 2012
A Tale of Two Veterans Transportation Service Programs
The providers in Region 1 are well-known for their long-standing coordinated transportation programs, many of which have included services to veterans. This month, I am highlighting two relatively new services begun over the last year. One is in the Keene, New Hampshire area and the other in Western Maine, the counties of Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford.
Home Healthcare, Hospice & Community Services (HCS) and the West Chapter of the American Red Cross Partnership
HCS and the West Chapter of the American Red Cross have provided transportation in the Keene (NH) and surrounding communities for more than 30 years. Beginning in September 2011, they teamed up to offer accessible transportation to medical facilities at the White River Junction Veterans Administration Medical Center in Vermont and at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH. The service is available to those needing rides to medical appointments. Priority is given to person over age 60, veterans and individuals with disabilities. Rides for priority groups are scheduled on a first come, first serve basis. Others with medical appointments may ride on a space available basis. Children under 18 must have a parent or legal guardian to accompany them. Family members or friends may accompany to assist users.
The vehicle is fully accessible for up to 11 passengers. Wheelchairs can be accommodated depending on size. Ambulatory seating varies according to the number of mobility devices on a given trip. Currently, the service is available one day per week, Wednesday, with 8:00 a.m. departure from the office of HCS. The service continues on to White River Junction and terminates at Dartmouth Hitchcock in Lebanon. The return trip begins at 2:30 p.m. A $20.00 donation is requested to help offset the cost, however, no one is refused due to inability to make a donation. The West Chapter of the Red Cross schedules appointments and handles Medicaid nonemergency transportation requests. Reservation Line: 603.352.3210 x120; 1.800.244.2214 x120; TTY use relay NH.
To reach the main bus stop, veterans and those with disabilities in outlying areas are provided access by Red Cross Transportation to and from the main departure point. These arrangements are made when reservations are taken for transportation to the facilities. Others may reach the departure point through:
- The Friendly Bus, which provides assisted transportation for seniors (60+) in the City of Keene. (The Friendly Bus requires reservations one day in advance.);
- The City Express, public transportation in the City of Keene. The City Express operates buses and the trolley Monday - Friday. A route operates year round in the City and a College/Community Shuttle Route operates to Keene State College, Riverside Plaza and Monadnock Marketplace during the college's fall and spring semesters. City Express buses now have bike racks so people can bike and ride to their destinations; or
- The Para Express a complimentary paratransit services for individuals with transit disabilities.
I will continue to check in with HCS and the Red Cross on this service, particularly since funds are only secure for one year of operation. The New Hampshire Department of Transportation also is a funding partner.
Western Maine Transportation Services
WMTS, serving Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties with public, wheelchair-accessible, "green" paratransit bus service in and around the more populated regions of the area, began in 1976. Partners include United Way of Oxford County and United Way of the Tri-Valley Area; Seniors Plus throughout the three counties, and Maine Department of Health and Human Services Friends and Family Rides and Volunteer Rides programs. WMTS also operates the Lewiston/Auburn Citylink bus service for the Lewiston/Auburn Transit Committee. In cooperation the towns, local condominium associations and businesses, the Maine Department of Transportation, and the Federal Transit Administration, WMTS also operates the Bethel/Sunday River Mountain Explorer and Sugarloaf Explorer seasonal bus services for the State of Maine.
WMTS recently expanded services to the Lewiston Veterans Administration Clinic. The Lewiston/Auburn City Link provides access through the Lisbon Street Route (Purple Bus, www.purplebus.org. The Lisbon Street bus originates from Lewiston's Oak Street Bus Station and can be accessed from any other Citylink route. All Citylink buses are wheelchair accessible. Additional information can be provided by calling 207.777.4563 or 1.800.339.9687, selection 2.
The wheelchair lift-equipped Lisbon Connection bus makes daily runs between Lisbon Falls and Lewiston's Oak Street Bus Station and will make stops at the Veterans' Clinic on-request. More information regarding schedules and fares is available at www.wmtsbus.org or by calling 1.800.353.9335.
WMTS provides public paratransit bus service on the following days from the towns listed below. The buses also will pick up veterans located in towns along the way. All of the WMTS paratransit buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts. Rides on the public paratransit buses, however, must be scheduled as far in advance as possible by calling 1.800.393.9335. WMTS towns:
- Norway/South Paris (Tuesdays)
- Rumford/Mexico/Dixfield and Turner (Wednesdays);
- Farmington/Wilton (Fridays). Service from as far away as Rangeley and Kingfield may be included with ample notice.
- Jay/Livermore Falls/Livermore (Fridays)
More information regarding schedules and fares is available at www.wmtsbus.org or by calling 1.800.353.9335. In some cases, it may be necessary to meet the bus at a designated stop along the route.
Kudos and many thanks to Harry Costick, HCS, and Craig Zurhorst, WMTS!
Watch this space for additional information on the work being done in Region 1.