The vehicle used in the new pilot transportation service in Chatham-Kent. (Photo courtesy of Family Service Kent via. Facebook.)

Pilot project aims to reduce social isolation

Residents in Chatham-Kent who don’t drive or may be on a tight budget, now have another transportation option.

Family Services Kent has partnered with the Municipality of Chatham-Kent to launch a pilot project called “adVANtage Transportation Service”. The project is a fee-for-service program, which is in an effort to help rural and low-income residents.

“What we’re seeking to do through the project is to reduce social isolation and improve quality of life for all Chatham-Kent residents who don’t currently qualify for — or may be underserved by existing transportation options in the community,” said Jyl Panjer, manager of community support services.

Panjer said the vehicle used for the program can hold up to nine people at a time — seven walk-on passengers and two passengers with wheelchairs.

The fares will be based on each passenger’s financial situation and are agreed upon during an application process.

“[The application form] is a few pages, we do ask for some proof of income for the household and [applicants] have to be a resident of Chatham-Kent,” she said.

Panjer also mentioned the program is only available for those up to the age of 60.

The new transportation service had a soft launch in April but is now being expanded to accept more people.

With this being a pilot project, Panjer said there are certain targets in place.

“What we’re hoping to do in the first year is increase our ridership by 50 per cent by March and we’re hoping to see 100 per cent of our rural communities have ridership representation through the program,” she said.

A full report on the progress of the pilot project will be presented to council at a later date.

“Right now, we’re just entering our first quarter report so it won’t be for a while yet,” said Panjer.

Residents who are interested in the program can call 519-354-6221 ext. 275 or email advantage@familyservicekent.com.