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Dial-a-ride filling a void in Northwest Alabama region

January 11, 2019

MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. (AP) — Mayor David Bradford said the Northwest Alabama Council of Local Government’s “dial-a-ride” program is the best kept secret in the region.

“For a lot of people on a fixed income, or ones who have a handicap or can’t afford their own transportation, “dial-a-ride” is affordable and available,” Bradford said.

“We have a lot of people in the region who are disabled but still try to work some, and they need this program. This program fills a void for a lot of our residents.”

Chris Allen called the program a lifesaver.

“I’ve been riding it for three years. It’s the way I get to work and back home,” said Allen, who is vision impaired and can’t drive.

Allen lives in Sheffield and works in Florence, which puts him in a hardship since he can’t drive.

“For me, it’s great,” he said. “I pay $6 a day; they pick up at home and drop me off at work, and then they pick up at work and take me home.

“Without the program, I don’t know what I would do,” Allen said. “I would have to take a cab everywhere, which can get expensive, or ask someone ... and I hate having to ask people for help.”

According to Joy Dickey, NACOLG’s Transit office manager, the “dial-a-ride” program averages about 125 one-way trips a day. She said the program is a “curb-to-curb” public transportation service.

Dickey said reasonable accommodations for disabled passengers are provided upon advanced requests.

She said vehicles are equipped with lifts for wheelchairs and also for “standees when needed.”

Jesse Turner, director of Planning and Transportation for NACOLG, said the program is an option for a lot of people who don’t have means of transportation.

“It’s there to help them when they are in need,” he said.

Passengers use the service for a variety of reasons, such as employment, education, shopping and medical trips. Many use it for transportation to dialysis and cancer treatments.

Turner said the $3 one-way fare is for transports within 1.5 miles of the city limits in Muscle Shoals, Florence, Tuscumbia, Sheffield and Russellville.

The fare increases to $6 one way for trips 1.5 miles to five miles outside the city limits, and it goes to $9 one way for trips 5 to 10 miles outside the city limits.

For trips beyond 10 miles outside the city limits, the fare is $9 plus $2 per additional mile.

Turner said there is limited “dial-a-ride” service available in the Haleyville and Hamilton areas.

Dickey said “dial-a-ride” is available Monday through Friday with 7 a.m. being the first available pickup and 4:15 p.m. the last available pickup.

“I’m never late, the bus is always on time,” said Allen. “They get me where I’m going and back home again. They’re good people, and I’ve made some good friendships with the drivers.”

Turner said in addition to “dial-a-ride,” NACOLG offers a transit program through contract services.

“We have contract services through various social service programs in all five NACOLG counties that provide transportation,” he said.

Bradford said the programs are valuable assets to the residents in the region.

“I just hope more people take advantage of them,” Bradford said.

“Dial-a-ride” appointments must be made at least by 3 p.m. the business day before the ride is needed. Appointments for rides can be made two weeks in advance.

For information, or to book a ride, call 256-314-0047 Monday through Friday.

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Information from: TimesDaily, http://www.timesdaily.com/

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