Lone Tree Voice – by Tabatha Deans Stewart
Winter months can be especially difficult for Douglas county residents who are homeless, housing-challenged or don’t own a vehicle, according to Douglas County Commissioner Roger Partridge. This year, Douglas county wants to make sure vulnerable populations have a ride when they need it. Whether it’s a ride to and from work, or a much needed ride to one of the homeless shelters in the Winter Shelter Network.
“My district is mostly rural areas,” said Partridge, whose District 2 includes Castle Rock and Castle Pines, but also less-developed areas, including Franktown, Larkspur and Sedalia. “Here, you have yourself, your friends and your neighbors if you need a ride.”
Douglas County has partnered with ride-share service Lyft, to create the new Ride Together program, which will offer free or reduced-price rides to at-risk or vulnerable populations in the county. Through the program, drivers can sign up to be a driver with Lyft, and donate rides through the cold winter months to residents who are transit dependent, which means they have no other means of transportation, such as a personal vehicle. The service can also be utilized by people who might need to travel between and among winter shelter programs.
Success of the program, said organizers, depends on the willingness of Douglas County residents to volunteer their time.
“This project came to mind after seeing the generous outpouring of volunteers in winters past,” said Mike Polhemus, Pastor of the Rock Church in Castle Rock. “From the faith-based community side, we have a large population that has a heart for the community, and sometimes they don’t know what they can do, or how they can help.”
Signing up to be a Lyft driver is a great way for them to help, according to Polhemus.
“One of the main things we see is through the winter, we have a winter shelter network for women and children who are homeless,” he said. “One of the issues that came up during the winter was they had no transportation to get to the churches or shelters to stay.”
The Ride Together program is a partnership between the faith-based community, Lyft and Douglas County. A $50,000 RTD grant was used to create an initial transit community fund, which will pay for the six-month pilot program. As drivers sign on with Lyft and start offering rides, fares and tips will be donated back into a transportation community fund, which will then fund the program in the future.
“Eventually, the program will be funded completely by charity,” Polhemus said.
Gabe Cohen, general manager for Lyft Rockies region, said the program is unique, and Lyft is happy to be part of the pilot.
“From our position here at Lyft, we see some of the trickiest transportation challenges,” Cohen said. “We keep people from driving drunk or high. But the county is really going after some of the trickiest challenges — helping underserved populations. We’re ecstatic to be part of the program.”
Income eligibility is a requirement for the program, with families receiving food assistance qualifying for free rides. Others may qualify for reduced-fare rides or other services offered through Douglas county, including RTD services, taxi vouchers or on-demand services. Rides must be within Douglas county to be eligible.
An event to enroll drivers will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 5 at 500 Fairgrounds Drive in Castle Rock. Screenings will be done on site for vehicle inspections, physical exams, background and DMV checks. Once drivers have been enrolled, they can begin donating rides. Drivers must be at least 21 years of age, drive a 2004 or newer four-door vehicle, possess a valid Colorado driver’s license and plates, have personal vehicle insurance and an iPhone or Android mobile phone.