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Publish Date: 5/25/2005

Ollie Claycomb, 85, receives help from Jamie Sherer onto a Special Transit bus outside her home at St. Vrain Manor on Tuesday. Claycomb has been riding the bus for three years and said she really enjoys the independence it gives her.Times-Call/Jason P. Smith

Easy rider
Special Transit offers more than just ride to the grocery store

LONGMONT — Hanging out a thumb and hitchhiking is one way to get from point A to point B.

But most senior citizens and people with disabilities can get a safer lift using their index finger — by calling Special Transit.

Since 1979, the nonprofit, Boulder-based bus company has been offering transportation services in 14 communities, from Boulder to Brighton to Allenspark.

Longmont riders represent 20 percent of trips made in 2004, according to company officials.

On Tuesday, the organization thanked its regulars and reached out to nonriders by offering free “door-through-door” transportation. The phrase means bus drivers go beyond pickup and dropoff duties to escort riders to a contact.

Last year, the top three trip purposes were personal (20 percent); medical (18 percent); and meal-related (13 percent).

Ollie Claycomb, 85, who needs a motorized walker to get around, called Special Transit services “glorious” for the freedom it gives her.

To get more of it, she recently enrolled in the nonprofit’s Easy Rider program.

Special Transit launched the program 18 months ago to give its rider population individualized training on how to use mainstream public transportation, such as larger Regional Transportation District buses, coordinator Dinah Pollard said.

Claycomb used Special Transit on Tuesday to shop for curtains at the Twin Peaks Mall. But she’s looking forward to finishing training so she can get around on RTD, too.

“I wanted to take the bus, the regular old bus, to King Soopers instead of asking my daughter to take me,” she said. “Being independent — that is the thing a lot of us treasure so much.”

To train riders such as Claycomb to board bigger public buses, Pollard begins with an in-home evaluation. For safety’s sake, she said, she checks the Special Transit rider for physical and cognitive ability.

Then, Pollard and her rider-in-training practice riding the bus.

“(Senior citizens) may have ridden trollies or streetcars as kids, but after a lifetime of driving, riding the bus is like a foreign thing to do,” she explained.

Her service and the practice bus rides are free during training. Afterwards, local trips on public transportation cost about 60 cents for a one-way trip, she said.

Special Transit charges $2 for local one-way trips — something riders said they considered reasonable compared to a cab fee or cabin fever.

Bus drivers might expect good tips for the extra hand they give, but that’s not the case.

“We encourage donations to Special Transit, but we’re not allowed to accept tips,” said veteran Special Transit bus driver Jamie Sherer. “But I get a lot of cookies.”

Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-684-5224, or by e-mail at pmellskog@times-call.com.

To book a Special Transit ride:

Cost: Local rides cost $2 one way.

Information: Call dispatch, 303-447-9636, to schedule. For more information, visit www.specialtransit.org

To register for public transportation training, call Dinah Pollard at 303-447-2848, Ext. 105.



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