Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ride sharing start-up filling transportation needs in rural areas

Van Wert County, Ohio (Wikipedia map)
A start-up is bringing ride-sharing to rural areas, M.L. Schultz reports for NPR. Erica Petrie, mobility manager for a seven county region of Area Agency on Aging in western Ohio, is responsible for finding transportation options in towns like Van Wert, which has no buses and only one taxi. So Petrie helped recruit drivers for Liberty Mobility Now, a start-up that began two years ago in Nebraska and has since expanded to Ohio and Texas, with plans for Colorado.

Vickie Smith, executive director of the Van Wert County United Way, said transportation assistance was the county's top unmet need in 2015, Kate O'Connell reports for The Van Wert Independent. Liberty Mobility Now is filling that need, providing rides for $1 per mile, plus a booking fee. The service, which began in February, takes riders anywhere for reason—"medical appointments, employment, shopping excursions, or a safe ride home after a night out."

Liberty in Van Wert County has hired 13 drivers, who work as independent contractors and use their own vehicles, and has plans to hire a fleet of 20 drivers "to ensure access to riders throughout a 24-hour cycle," O'Connell writes. "Drivers work whenever they want and find passengers through the Liberty Mobility app, available through the Apple Store and Google Play." A call center will soon be opening in Nebraska, for people who don’t have the technology to use the app. "Liberty is also developing an online portal for agencies to schedule rides for clients up to one month in advance."

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