COLUMBIA — Debbie Chappell has been living at Oak Towers for more than a year, and she's grateful for a new program that can help her get around town more easily.
"I think the new transportation system is a blessing to have," Chappell said.
The Columbia Housing Authority, which used to provide its own form of transportation for its residents, teamed up with Services for Independent Living to offer a better model of transit.
The organizations held a ribbon cutting at Oak Towers on Monday to celebrate the collaboration.
"We're trying to maximize people's self-reliance and our organizations' resources," said Tec Chapman, executive director of Services for Independent Living.
Services for Independent Living offers rides to residents of Paquin Tower, Oak Towers and the Bear Creek neighborhood to buy groceries and attend medical appointments.
"Most of us are grateful to have the new transportation system," Chappell said. "I know I am."
The new system, which began June 3, provides transportation Monday through Friday. Rides to medical appointments are available any day. The old system offered transportation only Monday through Thursday; Thursdays were reserved for doctor's appointments only.
An assessment of community needs will determine whether Services for Independent Living will expand its services to include Saturday.
Services for Independent Living has more vehicles than the housing authority, including one that provides enough seating for 16 people and two wheelchairs. The earlier system lacked that accessibility, a factor in the formation of the partnership.
Although Columbia Transit buses cost 50 cents less per ride than the $2 charged by Services for Independent Living, they don't offer the same customer service. Drivers for Services for Independent Living help passengers with their bags, and they have the flexibility to grant a passenger's preference to be dropped off at one place or another, Chapman said.
"If you have those relationships and can provide, it makes you more satisfied with the service," Chapman said.
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