Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Ride United is Here!

By guest blogger Danielle Robertson, South Sound 2-1-1 Transportation Specialist

“Thank you for calling South Sound 211, how can I help you?”

“I need transportation assistance today to get to my medical appointment at 2pm. I have had to cancel the past two appointments because I couldn’t find transportation.”

As I sit listening to the urgency in the caller’s voice and I learn that my caller is unable to safely get to the bus from where she lives and does not have the money to pay for a transportation program such as Lyft. I stare at the screen of transportation resources that my caller is not eligible for, preparing myself to tell my caller that there are not transportation options that can help get them to their appointment today at 2 pm.
If only there was a program that was designed specifically for this situation…

“Thank you for calling South Sound 211, how can I help you?”

“My car won’t start and if I am late to work one more time, I will lose my job. I need to be there in a half hour.”

Once again, I find myself taking a sharp breath preparing myself to tell another caller that there is not a transportation resource that is able to provide transportation right now to get them to work. The only option that is able to provide immediate transportation is the bus or a paid ride sharing program like Lyft. I sit there knowing that if this caller is unable to get to work and loses their job, they won’t be able to afford rent and could become homeless.
If only there was a program that was designed for this situation…

“Thank you for calling South Sound 211, how can I help you?”

“I couldn’t make it to my appointment to receive utility assistance because the bus does not run where I live. I missed my appointment. Our utilities were shut off for a week and half. Now I have to pay a late fee and reconnection fee in addition to the utility bill. All of this could have been prevented, if I had only had transportation to get to my original appointment”

If they only had transportation. Their utility bill would have been paid on time. They would not have had their utilities shut off and have to replace the food that went bad. They wouldn’t be scrambling to find the money to pay these late fees and reconnections.
If only there was a program that could have prevented this situation.

Ride United to the Rescue!
Transportation remains one of the largest barriers facing 211 clients who are trying to secure employment, access medical care, obtain healthy food, and escape emergencies and crises. Without reliable transportation people struggle to complete the most basic daily activities.
That is why Ride United was created. 

In June 2018, Lyft partnered with United Way and 211 to launch a pilot program to address this gap in resources. When eligible individuals call 211 and express a transportation need, a 211 specialist assesses their need, looks for available resources, and if none are available, they are able to utilize Lyft’s Concierge portal to dispatch a free round trip ride on behalf of the individual. This summer, Ride United expanded to twenty-five 211 communities across the US, including South Sound 211, to start providing free Lyft rides for qualifying individuals seeking to meet the highest unmet needs in our communities.

We are excited about the partnership between United Way and Lyft to add Ride United as a resource available to individuals in our community. This is a wonderful opportunity to provide even better service in the area of transportation.

This means that people living in 5 targeted Tacoma zip codes (98404, 98405, 98408, 98409 and  98444) can receive an on-demand round trip Lyft ride when no other transportation option is available for:
Medical Related Transportation Needs
Medicare Appointment
Non-Emergency Medical Appointment
Pharmacy/ Prescription Pick Up
Non-Emergency Hospital Visit

Employment Related Transportation Needs
Job Interview
Job Training
Job Fair
Pre-job Requirements
One Time Work Trip

Public Benefits
Department of Social and Human Services
Social Security Administration
Rental Assistance Appointment
Utility Assistance Appointment
WIC Appointment
Tax Preparation Services
Financial Coaching
Medicaid/CHIP Benefits Access
Housing Benefits Access

Ride United Works Wonders
Over the past year, United Way has seen great success and benefit in partnering with Lyft through Ride United. Across the nation, 211’s are able to provide transportation when there were no other options for people.

In Houston, a 66-year-old needed assistance with transportation to her last physical therapy appointment and a follow-up appointment with her physician. She explained that she’d suffered from a stroke and lost the ability to care for herself with daily tasks, including brushing her teeth, washing, and getting dressed. Even a simple task became seemingly unmanageable. She shared that her son usually drove her to the appointments, but had finally started a new job.   The local 211 was able to provide her with a ride to and from her appointments to ensure she received the care she needed.

In Denver, 211 was able to assist a disabled veteran who had been homeless through the Ride United program. This individual had been homeless for some time and was only able to move with the help of a walker.  Knowing he was in need of transportation to the Veteran Services Center in order to get assistance applying for housing and other essential services, he called 211 for help. When he was told that he would receive a ride and get the help he needed, he was very happy, thankful, and hopeful that things were beginning to change for him.

The value and need for transportation is often overlooked by most people who have reliable transportation, but for those who do not have reliable transportation it becomes a barrier and affects their lives in multiple ways. South Sound 211 is excited to be able to provide transportation to individuals in our community in a new way that can change their lives and help remove barriers for individuals and families in Pierce County.

To learn more visit

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