Red Deer’s test drive of the new Donate A Ride program resulted in 2,480 transit tickets being given to low-income residents through eight social agencies this year.
Modelled after Edmonton’s program, the Red Deer Action Group Society’s version tested the waters with a pilot in April.
It netted $2,400 in donations, translating into 1,995 adult tickets and 485 youth and senior tickets. Agencies applied for the tickets to disperse to their clients.
Jean Stinson, group president, said the fundraising program will run annually in November with the tickets to be given to agencies in January.
“Those agencies have clients that are living in a crisis and do not have an income,” said Stinson.
She said the recipient agencies will hand out tickets to individuals so they can go to jobs, interviews, medical appointments and other things. Stinson said a few agencies provide free bus passes or tickets to individuals that qualify for specific criteria.
“We are picking up those individuals that fall through gaps,” she said.
Red Deer Transit does not have a subsidy program for low-income or disabled residents.
A transit equality report released recently indicated that Red Deer is the largest Alberta city without a lower-cost transit pass for disabled people on fixed incomes.
Jennifer Vandershaege, Central Alberta AIDS Network Society executive director, said there is a critical need for this type of program in Red Deer. For example, she said, the food bank is not accessible to anyone who does not have a car.
“If you need the food bank you don’t necessarily have the money for bus tickets or a bus pass,” she said.
CAANS has never been able to find a funding source that could consistently provide bus tickets. Many social service agencies are in a similar situation.
Vandershaege said the hope is that people will feel more able to do their own errands and to access CAANS and other services.
“What happens with that little bit of help, they have the ability to hold down a job, which means eventually they will not need the support,” she said. “Sometimes really simple parts like that can really make a difference.”
She said in the grand scheme of things the price to ride the bus in Red Deer should actually be going down not up to encourage more people to take it rather than vehicles.
Eight agencies received the tickets — Loaves and Fishes Benevolent Society, Central Alberta Refugee Effort, Central Alberta AIDS Network Society, Family Services of Central Alberta, Salvation Army, Central Alberta’s Women’s Outreach Society and Safe Harbour Society.
For more information on Donate a Ride, visit www.rdactiongroup.ca.