Reliable transportation is more than a way for Douglas County residents to get their errands done quickly or go from the Gardnerville Ranchos to the Ironwood Cinema in Minden—it’s also a way to retain independence.
Travis Lee, manager of the Douglas County Senior Services and Public Transit, said that the Douglas Area Rural Transit, or DART, provides seniors and community members with both maneuverability and independence.
DART and its senior program, Dial-a-Ride, have been in operation for the past six years. Lee said that the Dial-a-Ride program fills a niche for senior citizens.
Dial-a-Ride is a scheduled bus system for seniors age 60 and older who qualify for curb to curb service. For a $1 donation, seniors can schedule times to be picked up from their home and be taken to doctor’s offices, shopping centers or other destinations.
“It increases accessibility for seniors who are disabled or who have lost their driver’s license,” Lee said. “When a driver’s license goes away it can be a traumatic experience for seniors.”
Lee said that he’s seen seniors seclude themselves at home because they do not want to burden family or friends for rides to do their errands or visit friends.
The DART bus provides benefits to caregivers also, he said.
“Caregivers would have to add that (driving seniors) to full time jobs and to time away from the rest of their family,” he said. “It benefits the family and the senior who doesn’t have to ask permission to go somewhere.”
The Dial-a-Ride program is funded through grants, bus fare and advertising from local businesses like the Carson Valley Medical Center, which pays $25,000 annually to have advertisements on the DART buses.
Lee and the senior services center is applying for grants to extend Dial-a-Ride to Douglas County’s Lake Tahoe area as well.
“It will give seniors in Stateline a chance to come down to the Valley for shopping in north Douglas County and it will give seniors in the Valley a chance to explore another beautiful part of our county at the lake,” Lee said.
The DART bus has fixed routes that connect with the Lake Tahoe bus system, BlueGo, but the Dial-a-Ride program will increase accessibility for seniors.
DART is operated by three full-time drivers, two on-call drivers and a volunteer driver who can take seniors as far as Reno thanks to a donated van from a local family, Lee said.
“Our drivers are the eyes, ears and hands of the system,” he said.
Seniors can expect help carrying groceries or packages on board from DART bus drivers and help onto the bus whether they can walk on or need a wheelchair lifted onto the bus.
Lee said that six years ago, the DART bus lost some fixed routes due to budget cuts and that the more people who ride the bus, seniors citizens and residents of all ages, the more routes they can begin to add.
For more information on Dial-a-Ride applications, routes and fares, contact Douglas County Senior Center in person at 2300 Meadow Lane in Gardnerville; online at douglascountynv.gov; or by phone at 783-6455.