A New Brunswick-based non-profit, volunteer-run rideshare service will implement a pilot project in the Tantramar region this June. The project will allow rural individuals to access larger towns via volunteer drivers, for appointments or other services. Rural Rides was founded in response to the inaccessibility of transportation for many individuals living in rural communities.
Although it was founded in 2014 to serve the Upper Petitcodiac River Region, this service has been in large demand in the Tantramar region.
“The concept started with a group of residents who felt that a service was needed for local transportation, since there is no public transit,” Kelly Taylor, manager of Rural Rides, said. “Some residents [feel] isolated if they do not have access to a car. The result was the creation of Rural Rides, a non-profit corporation with the mission to provide affordable transportation.”
Once a client contacts the service 48 hours in advance, Rural Rides coordinates with a vetted driver, who then arrives at a client’s residence and drives them to an urban destination such as Amherst or Moncton for medical appointments, banking or grocery shopping. Clients are charged 70 cents per kilometre, or 25 cents/km for low-income families and individuals. Rural Rides also maintains a special fund for those who cannot afford its lowest rates.
“When Rural Rides launched in 2014, a rate was set that was well below the going rate for other [forms of] public transportation,” Taylor said. “However, as time went on, it became apparent that many were struggling to pay even that modest rate.”
Taylor also said that the typical clients who use this service include the elderly, disabled individuals and isolated rural residents from low-income backgrounds.
When the pilot launches, Rural Rides will not initially offer the service for recreational or social purposes, including transportation to airports, but will consider them in the future. To avoid competition with local taxis, the service will not transport individuals within the Town of Sackville’s limits. Currently, some villages in the Tantramar region, such as Dorchester and Port Elgin, do not have a taxi service.
Hanna Longard, a third-year biology and philosophy student, grew up in a rural community in Nova Scotia.
“In many small communities with a low population spread out over a large area with bad roads and minimal access to surrounding town areas, a lot of people can’t get to where they need to be by nature of not being able to afford it,” Longard said. “I think that a service like Rural Rides is important for a lot of reasons, like not feeling isolated in what already is a fairly isolating setting.”
Many individuals living in rural areas lack steady access to transportation. This can result in missed job opportunities and appointments, as well as grocery shopping at smaller stores, which generally costs more. There are also many health-care services that are not available in the Tantramar region.
Amanda Marlin, executive director of EOS Eco-Energy in Sackville, said she is excited about the project from an environmental and personal perspective. EOS Eco-Energy ran a shuttle service pilot in 2014, though it was discontinued due to a lack of permanent funding.
“There are people who cannot afford the costly taxi ride to Moncton for medical appointments,” Marlin said.“There are people here who need to go to Moncton often for dialysis or cancer treatments, etc., but who miss them because they cannot get a lift. It’s heartbreaking.”
To register as a volunteer driver or learn more about the service, visit ruralridesnb.com