Oswego County Call-N-Ride transportation service is posting record numbers for usage in 2011. The curb-to-curb, low-cost bus transport service for the elderly and persons with special needs typically sees usage drop during the winter months, but not this year.
“We’ve had a record for January with 275 passenger trips,” said Gary Mashaw, director of transportation services at Oswego County Opportunities, the agency providing the service. By comparison, there were 203 passenger trips in January 2010, 214 in January 2009, and 212 in January 2008. “This is a significant increase,” Mashaw noted, “especially considering the severity of weather conditions we’ve experienced this winter.”
Call-N-Ride has completed more than 3,000 passenger trips a year since 2008. The service operates within Oswego County only, Monday-Friday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., with the exception of holidays. To schedule a ride, those interested may call the toll-free number between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday-Friday. Reservations must be called in at least three business days in advance of the need, cancellations must be called in at least two hours before the scheduled pickup.
The county is divided into five different zones based on school districts, and each zone has Call-N-Ride service available during specific days each week or every other week. Costs range from $2-$4 each way for the elderly and disabled, depending on distance traveled. “Call 1-877-484-3287 for more information,” Mashaw said, “or go to one of these websites: www.oco.org or www.forthebus.org.”
Call-N-Ride was launched over 10 years ago when the Vision Network of Oswego County partnered with Oswego County ARISE, Oswego County Visually Impaired, Oswego County Opportunities and the Oswego County Legislature to fulfill an important need. “People who want to retain their independence may not be able to drive due to vision loss or other situations,” said Sabine Ingerson, director of Oswego County ARISE. “Call-N-Ride allows them to schedule doctor visits, hairdresser appointments, go shopping, or visit family and friends. They don’t need to rely on others for rides, and they are much less likely to become isolated.”
In the early 2000s budget cuts forced the county to end funding for Call-N-Ride, but the Vision Network managed to keep the service in place through fund raising. In 2005 Constellation Energy began funding the service through corporate grants, which continue to this day. The grant funds help defray costs including fuel, which has steadily increased in price for the past few years. “This allows us to keep costs very low for the riders, which is important for people on fixed incomes,” Mashaw said.
For those who use the service often, and especially for persons with visual impairments, OCO recently added the option of purchasing bus tokens. “These can be used for any OCO transportation service,” Mashaw said. “The rider does not have to worry about carrying and counting cash.”
“We’re grateful to the OCVI and Vision Network for advocacy, to Oswego County Opportunities’ Transportation Services, and to Constellation Energy for their financial support,” Ingerson stated. “It’s all of these groups working together that have made Call-N-Ride possible, and this recent growth in usage makes it all worthwhile.”
Photo Caption: Laura Smith (left), president of Oswego County Visually Impaired (OCVI), helps member Evelyn Vorse purchase some tokens to use for bus rides provided through Oswego County Opportunities Call-N-Ride. For more information about Call-N-Ride or to purchase tokens, call 1-877-4THE-BUS.