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How Uber and Lyft could help seniors, those with special needs in Forsyth County
wheel chair

Forsyth County officials heard an update this week about a proposal that could help the county’s vulnerable populations get rides.

At a previous meeting, commissioners and members of the community discussed issues with the county’s Dial-A-Ride program – an on-call program allowing residents to make appointments for rides – including problems with getting to vulnerable populations, including seniors and special needs, to get to medical appointments and other events on time.

This week, commissioners heard from representatives with a possible solution. Common Courtesy, a service that connects riders with ride-sharing drivers, spoke at the meeting to tell why they were a better fit than just using a ride-share service.

“They have been very successful in finding ways to provide transportation for individuals that needed transportation but cannot drive,” said Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt. “They have been successful in doing this in our neighboring counties. They operate a non-profit, and I have been very impressed with what they’ve been able to do.”

The program dates back to 2006, which was more of a volunteer service that founders Bob and Anne Carr said was not as successful. Within the last four or five years, Uber came onto their radar, and the Carrs began to partner with the service.

“What Anne and I do is we listen to the needs of the entity … in this case, it would be senior services, and say, ‘What would best support your needs,’ and construct a program around that,” he said. “This is not a cookie-cutter, it’s not something that we come to you and say, ‘Have at it.’ If you wanted to do that, you could go directly with Uber and Lyft.”

One concern at a previous meeting was who would be driving the vehicles, and Bob Carr said all drivers had been vetted and have a team of operators to watch over the rides.

“We watch on the screen, watching the driver pick them up, watching the trip in progress, watching them drop off, then being there if something happens,” Bob Carr said.

Officials said rides can be ordered in about five minutes and riders have to register with the service, which includes information such as whether they need to transport a wheelchair, emergency contacts and other information.

Lisa Bennett, with Creative Enterprises-Forsyth, a program for adults with special needs, said among the positives of the program is it could help her clients get to jobs.

No action was taken at the meeting, and county staff will look into more information before a decision is made.