Seniors, disabled persons and people with low incomes have additional transportation options with the expansion of Pierce County’s free Beyond the Borders Connector service.
The increased service, which started the first week of March, is a four-month pilot project by the county’s Community Connections to give eligible, special-needs riders in some rural communities a link to medical or social services appointments, grocery stores and other destinations at no cost. Rides can be scheduled by calling 2-1-1 to register and then complete an eligibility screening.
The transportation program is administered by Pierce County and serves Spanaway, Roy, Yelm, Sumner, Bonney Lake and Prairie Ridge. The routes connect with Pierce Transit and Sound Transit stops.
Use of the daily service is unlimited, but riders must make a reservation 24 hours in advance, officials said.
Scott Kinney, a spokesman for Community Connections:, said local funding of Connector by Pierce Transit and the county allows access to state and federal sources. For every local dollar, “two additional dollars in state and federal funding” can be secured for Connector, he explained.
The county expects to spend about $300,000 to run the five expanded Connector routes during the four-month pilot period.
After requesting bids from private carriers, the county selected two transportation companies to cover the routes.. Transpro, based in Tacoma, will provide the service in the south part of the county, and Local Motion, which is based in Puyallup, will handle the north areas. Kinney said the companies will use lift-equipped vehicles that can accommodate wheelchairs.
While the Transpro and Local Motion vehicles :”are smaller than transit buses, this service will be considerably less expensive that the costs to run full-size buses,” Kinney said.
Officials will “measure the transportation needs” of Connector riders during March, April, May and June, said Corey Lew, manager of Community Connections’ housing and community development division.
Connector previously has taken riders from their homes to the nearest bus stop. The pilot project expands to include five routes served by wheelchair lift-equipped, 13-passenger vehicles. The vehicles have timed stops but can also deviate from the routes to pick up individuals within a half mile of the route.
Service is being offered seven days a week in:
• The Roy Y area, with connections to Pierce Transit at the Walmart on Mountain Highway and to Yelm, with connections to Intercity Transit.
• Spanaway, with connections to Pierce Transit at Wa;art on Mountain Highway and the South Hill Transit Center on Meridian.
• Bonney Lake and Prairie Ridge, with service to Rhododendron Park and Ponderosa Estates
• Sumner-Bonney Lake with connections to Pierce Transit and Sound Transit.
Information about routes, stops and schedules is available at www.piercecountywa.org/cc and 1-800-572-4357.
Paratransit Services has a contract with the county to coordinate rider-eligibility screenings, drivers and vehicles for the pilot project.
Christine Scheffer, executive vice president of Paratransit Services, noted that “transportation is essential to connecting people to work, employment and life-sustaining services.”