Shared Ride program change in Westmoreland upsets senior citizens
It's been a rocky road since the Westmoreland County Transit Authority absorbed the Senior Shared Ride Program in July, and senior citizens say its congested operating system is leaving them by the wayside.
The PennDOT program was put in place to provide subsidized, low-fare taxi rides to senior citizens willing to share a cab.
By several accounts, the service ran smoothly when riders dealt directly with the contracted taxi companies.
But since the program was consolidated under the transit authority on July 1, seniors from Vandergrift to New Kensington are struggling to reach the authority's backed-logged Greensburg office.
Numerous calls to transit authority officials for comment on Thursday went unanswered.
With regular fare rates and Shared Ride operators out of reach, some seniors are left stranded. Some say they have missed critical hospital visits.
Chris Schubertof Lower Burrell said her mother-in-law, 91, relied heavily on the Shared Ride program when she scheduled with Byers Taxi Service in Vandergrift. Since July, she said, attempts to reach the transit authority office have been rarely successful.
On most tries, the phone goes unanswered for 45 minutes to an hour before the caller gives up, she said.
According to Schubert, her mother-in-law's inability to leave her New Kensington apartment has impacted her health.
“She's the type of person who won't let anyone know when she needs a ride,” she said. “She hasn't been to the doctor's in weeks because she can't get there.”
Her mother-in-law was placed in intensive care twice last year — once after contracting pneumonia and again when she broke a vertebrae in her neck. Between those incidents, her age and diabetes, the New Kensington woman is prescribed 14 types of medication.
“She doesn't know how to take them,” Schubert said. “That's why it's so important that her intake is monitored. It's literally life-threatening that she can't make it to the hospital.”
It's not the only case in which someone claims the new system's prevented Westmoreland County residents from seeking treatment.
Byers Taxi Service owner Julia Martin said a mix-up in the first week of consolidation cost one Vandergrift resident a chemotherapy treatment.
During the first days centralization, the transit authority computer system crashed.
Authority officials deferred customer communication during that time to the six cab companies in Westmoreland County. Those companies sent the schedules to the Greensburg office, which would distribute them back to the cab services.
Somewhere in the process, the woman's taxi appointment fell through the cracks.
“We were basically sending out the schedules, just to get them back,” Martin said. “A woman lost a cancer treatment because of the confusion.”
Prior to the scheduling centralization, Westmoreland was the only county in the state that didn't use a transit authority to coordinate its Shared Ride program.
Martin, a third-generation owner of the family business, said the centralization, although “ineffective,” reduces the need for some cab company dispatchers.
She said it will most likely lead to layoffs within her company and others in the county.
The Shared Ride program will provide an estimated 165,000 trips for seniors in Westmoreland County this year, the authority stated previously.
Seniors who participate pay $2 for a ride that is fewer than five miles. Fares between five and 10 miles increase to $3.25, and the maximum fare is $9.60 for trips up to 60 miles.
Martin said the countywide, fixed-fare structure will benefit some Westmoreland County residents. Byers Taxi Services patrons are not among them.
Having not requested a rate increase from the Public Utility Commission since the 1990s, Martin's fares were less than those offered by the county. Now, all cab companies charge the same fare.
“One thing about all of this is that it shows you were appreciated before,” she said. “Some elderly people approach me and ask me why I ‘sold the company.' They don't believe it's the same people.”
Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or email@example.com. The Trib's Rich Cholodofsky contributed to this report.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Body found in Allegheny River in Harrison
- Puppy, pals come to rescue of Lower Burrell firefighters
- Police investigate reports bus driver allowed Fox Chapel students to change clothes
- Christmas parade gets warm welcome in Saxonburg
- South Butler students push composting as a way to slow food waste
- Retirements help trim Arnold budget
- Deer Lakes School Board gives $10,000 raise to new Superintendent Logue-Belden
- CNG station approved for Harmar
- Burrell school officials update education goals
- Armstrong ranks 4th in nation among most-armed counties
- Freeport Area High School students participate in Entrepreneurship Day