If you are a Chesterfield County resident 60 or older, with a disability, or coming from a low-income household, and you need transportation, then you are eligible for Access Chesterfield. Access Chesterfield is a shared-ride transportation service for Chesterfield residents that services those aforementioned and curb to curb (and door to door if needed) service is provided.
Access Chesterfield is the first of its kind for Chesterfield County. According to Sarah Snead, Deputy County Administrator for Human Services, there was a need to provide transportation services to the elderly, the disabled, and those with low income, and Access Chesterfield was born from that in November 2004. Snead said an individual does not have to meet all three criteria, but they do have to meet at least one.
Access Chesterfield primarily services Chesterfield County, but Snead said there are cases where the rider can be taken to Colonial Heights, Petersburg, and Richmond (MCV).
“It is targeted at Chesterfield, however, there are exceptions,” Snead said. “For example, if you live in the Matoaca lower/southern Chesterfield area, it’ll go into Colonial Heights because, obviously, it’s not efficient for us to tell somebody you need to go all the way to wherever in Chesterfield when I can take you right over the line and be more efficient, and they can go to the same places they’ve always gone to in Colonial Heights.”
Snead said Access Chesterfield averages 650-675 individuals who ride in a given year and that there are 50,000 trips a year. Riders can use the service for work, medical appointments, school, and personal trips (mall, grocery store, or restaurants).
Frank Vance, transportation program coordinator, said the service provides 1,000-plus trips weekly and that helping people get to their appointments is important.
“We’re providing over 1,000 trips a week right now, these are all trips that are needed, people going to and from medical appointments, to and from work, going grocery shopping,” Vance said, “these aren’t trips that are … frivolous … and being able to provide that service, what we do here is pretty important.”
Snead said ridership is higher for jobs and medical trips, but that it has been tremendously beneficial and vital for everyone who uses the service.
“It allows individuals to go to work, it allows them to get to their medical appointments; we have a number of [people] … that go to dialysis and … that’s critical for them to get to those appointments, to get to them on a regular basis without disruption, and I would say it’s even been beneficial beyond what [everyone else thinks] of as critical appointments, jobs, medical etc.,” Snead said. “The ability for an elderly person, or a disabled person, to be able to go get groceries, to be able to get out of their house and go somewhere in the county for an errand, that type of event, [can be ”
Though Access Chesterfield has been a useful service, Snead said they have received helpful advice on how to make it better. She said the main issues have been a decrease in ridership when they change vendors (Owl Transportation is their current vendor) and lateness.
“[With] the ridership increase [that is] happening now, we have to closely watch the lateness, and part of the contract is the vendor doesn’t get paid if they’re late. But still, whether they get paid or not, I don’t want somebody losing their job because they can’t get to work on time, and so that’s the type of area where we not only want feedback but we get feedback,” Snead said. “Of course we watch the lateness so we know when they’re late, but that’s where we would get feedback that is not necessarily the ones that you and I want to hear about, you want to hear that everybody’s on time, it’s usually related to that.”
Joey Rousch, an Access Chesterfield rider, has been a devotee for three years. Rousch, uses the service for medical appointments and recreational trips, and although she commented on the tardiness of the resource, she also praised the service for being reliable.
“AC tries to be really reliable. I mean, I know sometimes things may come up to where their drivers may be a little late,” Rousch said, “but it’s not their fault that things come up at the last minute to where the drivers may be a few minutes late getting to the individual person.”
Snead, despite the feedback about being on time and having a vendor who knows where they’re going, said riders appreciate the service and that they are tweaking those areas.
In regard to improvements, Vance said they are doing well and that they have increased their abilities to provide vouchers at his office in addition to getting them at Chesterfield County libraries and the treasurer’s office. He said they now have a credit card machine and hope to have a smart card system in the future.
Vance also said helping the riders get to their appointments is impactful and satisfying.
“I get to help the most-needy folks in the county, the seniors and disabled passengers and also the low income households that we serve,” Vance said. “Taking people to medical appointments, taking people to and from work, just being able to have an impact and give the people who have no other way to get to these activities a way to get there … [is] actually kind of satisfying.”
Snead lauded Access Chesterfield for doing a good job, and she said the focus is on making sure it continues to do so and reaching potential customers who are eligible for the service.
“For now, we’d like to continue to stabilize the program that we have, make sure it keeps doing a good job even get our on-time even closer,” Snead said, “so at this point I wouldn’t say we would add anything but obviously reaching more of those people who are eligible … along with continuing to work to have an exceptional program.”
For more information about Access Chesterfield, visit http://www.chesterfield.gov/AccessChesterfield/