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Greater Houston Transportation Program Helps Elderly & Disabled

Living in an outlying area in Harris County without reliable transportation is a challenge. But one organization is trying to fill the gap for people without a vehicle who need to get around.


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A bridge built by Harris County on Runneburg Road in Crosby.
Gail Delaughter
A truck passes over a bridge built by Harris County on Runneburg Road in Crosby.

Harris County Rides helps provide on-demand transportation for the elderly and disabled. Int provided about 75,000 trips in 2015.

News 88.7 Transportation Reporter Gail Delaughter talked about the service with Vernon Chambers, the Assistant Director of Harris County's Office of Transit Services.

Delaughter: How do clients use the services of Harris County Rides?

Vernon Chambers: The client can use the service for wherever they need to go or whatever they need to do. However, we find that a lot of the trips, clients really use it for medical appointments. And many of them use it for various functions just to remain independent in the community.

Delaughter: How crucial is it to have a way to get to those appointments?

Vernon Chambers: It's very critical because a lot of those clients are dialysis clients, which are routine trips three days a week. And that's a lifeline for them.

Delaughter: There are places in Harris County that are essentially rural. If you live out there and have no transportation, what is it like?

Vernon Chambers: Well, you're dependent on services like Harris County Rides. It's demand-response. We pick the client up from their home and take them where they want to go.

It's not about having a car. Many of them are at the age where they can no longer drive. And so they need services like Harris County Rides that can take them where they need to go to remain independent in the community.

Delaughter: What are some of the things you hear from people who had no means of transportation but who can now get around?

Vernon Chambers: A lot of clients, sometime they can rely on friends or relatives. But after a while they get tired of asking friends or relatives to take them where they need to go. And so with Harris Rides they feel that gives them independence to go where they need to go without having to depend on someone else.

Delaughter: How much do you see the demand growing here in Harris County?

Vernon Chambers: It's really going to grow a whole lot because of the aging population. A lot of people have moved out to the outskirts of the city and the suburbs where there is no transportation. So they've aged in place. They can't drive for various reasons.

Delaughter: The way you provide the service, you're basically subsidizing cab rides?

Vernon Chambers: The rides program basically subsidizes at 50-percent. So if a trip for example is $20, the client will pay $10 and we will pay $10.

Delaughter: Where do you think things are going to go in the future with the kind of transportation you provide?

Vernon Chambers: We get calls from clients asking us, are you going to be looking at Uber or things like that. There are a lot factors that go into whether or not we could contract with someone like Uber. But I am not ruling that out. At this time, we are concerned about the client’s safety. And they would have to meet Harris County's criteria to become a provider, such as insurance, background checks, and all that kind of thing.