Avenidas taps tech to boost transportation for seniors

Victoria Thorp | Palo Alto Pulse – April 18, 2018

As Palo Alto’s population ages, more older residents are staying in their homes to be close to friends and family. However, getting around town can be difficult for seniors, especially once they stop driving. Fortunately, local nonprofit Avenidas has been filling this need since the 1970s using volunteer drivers and began offering door-to-door transportation in 2013.  The only catch is that growing demand sometimes outstrips supply when Avenidas tries to find volunteers who are available to ferry seniors to important appointments.

Partnering with Lyft to reach more seniors

But thanks to an innovative partnership with Lyft that began in 2016, Avenidas is able to ensure that no ride requests go unmet. Based in San Francisco, Lyft is one of the world’s leading ride share companies with an app that is used by millions of people to order on demand rides. And while ride share services like Lyft might seem like a easy way for seniors to get around town, many older people find smart phones too difficult to use due to vision impairment and lack of comfort with the technology.

That’s why Avenidas worked with Lyft to set up a concierge system where rides are coordinated through old-fashioned calling rather than the app.

You don’t need an app for that

The process is simple. Seniors who live within 12 miles of downtown Palo Alto call Avenidas at least 24 hours ahead of time to set up a ride request. The Door-to-Door Transportation coordinator then looks for either a volunteer driver to fill each request, or if none is available, schedules a ride through Lyft.

Either way, the cost for all advanced reservation rides is the same: $9-$18 each way, depending on the miles required for travel. Any last minute transportation requests to Avenidas, which are filled exclusively by Lyft, incur an additional fee. Avenidas tracks the rides for each senior and sends a monthly bill that can be paid by check or credit card.

Volunteers provide personal service seniors love

“Avenidas provides 55-60 rides a month for local seniors who might otherwise struggle to call taxis or be isolated in their homes,” said Erika Thomas, the coordinator of the Door-to-Door Transportation program. “Volunteer drivers are the heart of our program and our seniors love their personal attention, but through Lyft we can make sure that every ride request is fulfilled.”

Local seniors love getting rides from dedicated volunteers. Photo courtesy of Avenidas.
Lyft helps seniors beyond the Bay Area

Lyft’s partnership with Avenidas is part of the company’s national effort to support seniors who need help getting around. As described in a company blog, “Lyft is bringing a new focus to transportation technology that better meets the needs of our aging population.”

Lyft driver gives a senior a ride in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Lyft.
How to learn more and get involved

Source: Palo Alto Pulse

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