The Transportation Problem: Finding Rides When You Can’t Drive
by Audrey Demmitt
The Transportation Problem
One of the most difficult challenges for people with vision loss is finding reliable and affordable transportation. Whether you have had to give up your driver’s license or never had the chance to drive, it is an adjustment fraught with emotion and a sense of loss of independence. In this mobile, fast paced, car-loving society, who among us has not longed to get into a car and drive? Oh the joy of running errands on your own schedule or simply being able to spontaneously meet a friend for lunch. Those days are long gone for me; I lost my driver’s license 24 years ago due to vision loss. It was a real game-changer to be sure. However, life can be lived even after this happens. Life without a license to drive calls for innovation, networking, and advocating for yourself especially if you live in a community that does not offer public transportation.
Relocated for Better Transportation
At the time I lost my license, we lived in the cornfields of rural Indiana. My husband and I quickly realized this location was not going to work for us; we had three young children to raise and I had a career I wanted to pursue. So, we relocated to Georgia. We discovered Peachtree City which is in a rural county south of Atlanta. While it does not offer any forms of public transportation, it has 100 miles of golf cart paths and walking trails that connect the whole city. For years, I drove a golf cart to work, school, shopping, piano lessons, ball games and anywhere my busy life required. As my vision declined, my children were old enough to drive me and we survived a few more years on the golf cart paths. Then my kids got their drivers’ licenses and we bought a second car. They each took turns being my chauffer. Before long, they all left for college and I found myself looking for new transportation options. I got my first dog guide and began to walk to work and to the closest stores. But there are many places I cannot get to on foot and there are still no buses in town. So I had to get creative and assertive about finding rides.
Recruiting Others to Drive
I rode to work for a while with a neighbor who worked at the same place I did. Then her job changed and she moved. Next I recruited college students from a local campus and several individuals as drivers for pay. We would discuss the price up front, which I based on mileage reimbursement plus an hourly wage. To find drivers or rides, I advertised my need for transportation in the neighborhood newsletter. Also, I contacted the local Lion’s Club to explore options with their volunteers. Often, I can get errands done with friends who do not accept payment and I buy their lunch in return. When my children were young, I arranged carpools and rides for them in exchange for my babysitting services. It is important to plan your rides in advance, communicate clearly with your drivers, and organize your outings to make the most of the trip.
Seven Transportation Tips
Here are a few more tips to address the transportation dilemma:
- Some people keep their vehicle and hire a personal driver. You may want to advertise locally, interview candidates carefully, do a background check, ask about their driving record, negotiate fees and secure appropriate insurance coverage. This option involves other expenses such as car maintenance, registration and tags, insurance and gas.
- If relocation is an option, consider areas where there is public transportation; fixed route buses, Paratransit and public transit. Look up the Walk Score of areas that may interest you to find the “walkability” of the community. Consult a realtor about the rising number of live-work-play communities that offer the conveniences of city life with less stress, decreased need for driving, and a healthier walking lifestyle.
- Some communities offer a “voucher transportation program” through the senior services or community services center. These programs are subsidized by federal and local agencies to provide transportation for seniors and disabled adults. The rider buys a book of vouchers at a low cost and exchanges them with a certified driver at the time of service. The driver then cashes in the vouchers for a subsidized amount.
- Some local churches or community groups may have “volunteer” transportation programs that provide rides free of charge to qualified people.
- Local taxi companies may be willing to negotiate discounts for disabled passengers who frequently use their services.
- There are new “rideshare” services cropping up such as Uber and Lyft in most major cities nationally. These services offer rides on demand within minutes in private vehicles, as taxi alternatives. They have mobile apps used to request the ride and handle fees electronically.
- Expect to pay for rides and budget accordingly. If you owned a car and drove, you would have a myriad of expenses to maintain your own transportation.
Transportation Programs in Short Supply
Accessible and affordable transportation is in short supply in many communities making the above tips even more important. Federal and local governments struggle to maintain programs and find resources to meet the needs of low income, senior, and disabled citizens. Shortfalls in funding have resulted in cutbacks in services and routes, and even the folding of Paratransit programs in some communities. People need rides to maintain employment, good health and quality of life, and engagement in the community.
Become a Transportation Advocate
It is imperative for the visually impaired community to be pro-active in managing their transportation needs. Lack of transportation can lead to isolation, unemployment, loss of independence and even depression. We must take charge, self-advocate and be creative when it comes to addressing this area of our life.
How Do You Get Around?
Do you have problems with finding transportation? What methods have you used to get around your community? Taxicabs? Walking? Public bus, train or Paratransit? Have you found friends and family helpful when needing a ride? Do you hire drivers? Share your tips, suggestions and thoughts in the comment section below.
Read more on the topic of "getting around".
Re: The Transportation Problem: Finding Rides When You Can’t DrivePosted by maribelsteel on 8/21/2014 at 9:26 PM
Audrey - this is a really helpful article. I love how you use creative ways to solve the transport problem, especially having a golf buggy - I want one! But here in busy Melbourne, I do use the transport benefits our government has put into place such as free transport on ALL public buses, trams and trains. We are also fortunate to be entitled to half fare taxis for a certain distance.
When I lived in a rural community when my children were young, I used to plan my trips into our local town by hopping aboard the school bus in the morning and catching the long distance coach going to Sydney in the afternoon and asked the driver to drop me off at the nearest corner to home.
One is always seeking solutions - and you have provided some great tips here...thanks!
Re: The Transportation Problem: Finding Rides When You Can’t DrivePosted by travelergal on 8/23/2014 at 8:59 PM
I also found this article really helpful, Audrey. Finding transport is one of the most difficult parts of not driving and I've had my frustrations--when people who promise you don't show up, or show op much later, or act like you are a bother for asking. I have had to miss many writer's meetings due to lack of transport. But these are what has worked for me. First of all, if you live outside of the US, taxis were my best bet. I hired a regular driver and that worked great. In my home town, paratransit vans only come on certain days because we are considered "rural." I'm still seeking a viable, dependable driver but I found a friend who takes me out once a week to run errands. She sets aside an entire morning just for me. =) My brother is also quite helpful. I pay for gas, coffee and sometimes a light meal because he is so generous with his time. A third way is through an area-wide vision support group. I called them once. You pay a certain amount per mile. But because it comes quite a distance to pick me up, it's not so cost effective. Thanks for posting this very practical article and I'll keep tuning in to learn what other readers do!
Re: The Transportation Problem: Finding Rides When You Can’t DrivePosted by Quietwater on 9/18/2014 at 10:53 AM
Many friends with low vision have used bicycles, and as a guide dog user, I often walk everywhere. These options of course require walkable communities. One friend rode her horse around a small town. I must admit my family has done a bit of that and we always find people eager to take our pictures as we tie up to go in to a convenience store or ride through town to the blessing of the animals at our church, everyone horse back with smaller pets in saddle bags with their heads out and trailing an elderly llama.
Re: The Transportation Problem: Finding Rides When You Can’t DrivePosted by Mosieposie on 3/17/2015 at 12:17 AM
I know I'm late joining this conversation, but I just found this website today. I also live in the Atlanta area, and I find it very difficult to get around since I had to quit driving. I am currently trying to decide if I need to relocate to a more walkable area. Right now I'm feeling more confused than anything, as I try to decide what to do in order to stay employed. I am not legally blind, but I cannot drive due to RP. I am enjoying the encouragement and ideas that I find on this website.
Re: The Transportation Problem: Finding Rides When You Can’t DrivePosted by VisionAware Program Manager on 3/17/2015 at 2:55 PM
My name is Empish and I am a peer advisor for VisionAware and also live in the Atlanta area. I am totally blind and have found some ways to get around Atlanta. Please contact me off-line and we can discuss in more details. But in the meantime I have found that you have to use a variety of methods. Some public transportation if possible. Some cabs. Some friends and family. Some hire drivers. That is what I have found works the best. I have also been able to maintain employment this way as well.
My e-mail address at work is email@example.com. I work at the Center for the Visually Impaired right in Midtown.
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