Rural transport service in urgent need of volunteer drivers


A charity that provides low-cost transportation in southeastern New Brunswick says it urgently needs volunteer drivers.

The Urban Rural Rides program operates in Westmorland and Albert counties, in areas that do not have other public transport.

It is used by seniors, newcomers and low-income families to get to places like the hospital, food bank or grocery store, CEO Kelly Taylor said.

Before the pandemic, it had around 70 volunteer drivers.

Now there are only 25 left.

But as the number of their drivers has dwindled, demand is increasing, said race coordinator Annie Beauregard-Choinière.

Ideally, she would like to have 75 drivers to handle the workload.

The way the service works is that once people are registered they can call 48 hours in advance to be matched with a volunteer driver.

The driver “picks you up from your home, takes you where you need to go,” then waits to take you home afterwards, Taylor said.

“There is a great bonding and socialization going on there besides just accessing the programs that they need to access,” she said.

Kelly Taylor, executive director of Urban Rural Rides, said seniors make up the majority of their clients.

Users of the service are charged 25 cents per kilometer.

The “vast majority” of customers, Taylor said, are seniors who are unable to drive a vehicle, either due to medical or financial constraints.

In many cases, clients are isolated because they live alone and have no family in the area.

Or if they are newcomers, she said, it takes a while to get a driver’s license.

For all guests, the ride program offers a “human connection”.

“They really need that extra support from the volunteers in the community to help them get to their appointments,” Taylor said.

“You are cut off” from the majority of services

In many rural communities, there are few or no other transportation options available.

“Essentially you’re cut off from the vast majority of services,” Taylor said, “unless you can beg and plead for a neighbor” to drive you into town.

“It’s very dehumanizing.”

Many customers say that being able to book their own transportation through Urban Rural Rides gives them a sense of independence and control – and in some cases, has led to “great friendships,” Taylor said.

Drivers are not paid for their time, but are reimbursed for mileage.

Additionally, precautions are in place to protect drivers and passengers from COVID-19.

Only one passenger is allowed at a time, Taylor said, and they are seated in the back seat on the passenger side.

Drivers are provided with personal protective equipment and cleaning products to clean their vehicles between trips.

Anyone interested in volunteering can call 962-3073 or visit online at urbanruralrides.ca.

If things go “really bad,” Taylor said, the group will revert to food delivery.


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