For many of us who want to age in our own homes or neighborhoods, transportation can be one of the biggest challenges. Homes in cul-de-sacs are not always within easy walking distance to a bus stop, and Ride On buses do not service all neighborhoods.
The need for transportation has been a key factor in the formation of “village” organizations, in which neighbors assist neighbors. Montgomery County has nearly 15 neighborhood villages in operation or about to launch. Volunteer drivers are the No. 1 requested service in village neighborhoods. One village, Olney Home for Life, has provided 1,400 volunteer rides for residents in the past two years.
If you know or care for someone who needs a ride, it might be time to check out some of the ways to get around. Among the services available is Connect-A-Ride, a free information and referral program operated by the Jewish Council on Aging that links callers to a range of public, private and volunteer transportation options.
The program also provides personal assistance to callers in need of escorted transportation. Call 311 to ask about senior transportation, and your call will be transferred to Connect-A-Ride, or call 301-738-3252 to reach the service directly.
Another resource, Senior Connection, provides volunteer drivers who escort passengers 62 and older to medical appointments primarily and other places when possible. Call 301-962-0280 in advance for this service, which depends on availability of drivers.
Residents 55 and over who live within the service area of one of the county’s five senior centers are eligible for new JCA van transportation to a center by calling 240-777-4980. The buses provide curb-to-curb service, Monday through Friday, to county residents living within a geographic radius of the senior centers — Damascus, Holiday Park, Long Branch, Margaret Schweinhaut and White Oak.
The new program provides a transportation option to neighborhoods that have not previously been accessible to the county’s larger Ride On buses. The JCA ElderBus fleet drivers have specialized training in working with the senior population, such as providing them assistance getting on and off the bus, if needed.
For those who want to take public transportation, adults 65 and older can use a Senior SmarTrip card or Medicare card for Ride On buses and some Metrobuses in Montgomery County free between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. or half fare all other times. To buy a SmarTrip card, which costs $5, go to any Montgomery County public library and bring proof of age. Then take the card to Metro to add money for fares to the card.
MetroAccess provides shared-ride, door-to-door and para-transit service for people with disabilities who cannot use public transportation. Fares are twice the comparable fixed-route fare, with a maximum of $7 per one-way trip. Metro must certify users for the service. Trips may be scheduled in advance but not for same-day reservations. Call 301-562-5360.
For questions about transportation and other Montgomery County services, call 240-777-3000 or 311. Also, if you are a driver, consider volunteering to help others get around.
Judith Welles, a local writer, formerly chaired the Montgomery County Commission on Aging.