The Howard County Office on Aging conducted extensive research in 2001 which projected that the county’s senior population would double by the year 2020. Seniors surveyed in the study identified health care and a lack of transportation options as their top two concerns. The Office on Aging presented their findings to Transportation Advocates, a grassroots coalition of businesses, human services, transportation providers, local government, senior and environmental groups, consumers and interested citizens working to increase public awareness of transportation services and needs and advocating for regional and local transportation.
While the Office on Aging addressed seniors’ healthcare concerns, it encouraged Transportation Advocates to find a solution for inadequate transportation. In researching transportation options for older residents, a sub-committee learned of Supplemental Transportation Programs (STPs) operating across the country to meet the needs of specific populations through a largely volunteer structure. Transportation Advocates hosted a local conference to study STPs in October 2002.
A workgroup consisting of more than 25 human services and transportation providers, government representatives, interested community members and senior citizens was formed at that conference. The workgroup continued for 2 years and interviewed service providers, held informal focus groups, and met with existing senior groups to understand the impact of transportation on the quality of life for seniors. Members of the workgroup also talked with the staff at STPs across the country to learn how their programs operated. After the group completed a needs assessment, investigated volunteer issues, established strategic alliances, and formed an infrastructure, a model program was created by matching best practices from other programs to Howard County’s needs and resources. Neighbor Ride was incorporated in the summer of 2004 and its volunteer-provided senior transportation service was launched on November 17, 2004.
Neighbor Ride believes that the volunteer-based transportation service it offers remains critical to older members of our community, enabling them to continue to maintain a good quality of life. They are able to remain active and connected to the community as consumers, volunteers, students and employees even after driving themselves is no longer safe or appropriate.
Neighbor Ride’s service is also beneficial to working families caring for elderly family members. The service provides a safe, friendly and reliable transportation option for busy family members who cannot always afford to take time off from work to transport their loved ones.