Seniors and persons living with disabilities now have a service available when they need to find reliable transportation options to get around Memphis. Innovate Memphis launched its 901RideChoice program this spring. It’s a free phone service for those individuals who need transportation to help regain independence, removing barriers to care and quality of life by making it easier for people to access their best transportation options. Funded by Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) and the City of Memphis through a federal grant, 901RideChoice is a nationally recognized model that has been successfully implemented in other cities, including Atlanta and Philadelphia.
The service is easy to use. Individuals in need of transportation first call 901-743-3901 (901Ride901). A call center representative trained in transportation options will ask a series of questions to better understand the type of transportation needed and location of pick-up and destination. Based on caller feedback, the system will generate the best fit transportation option for that person. In some cases, the call center representative will provide a list of transportation options for the individual to call. 901RideChoice has a list of transportation providers, who go through a vetting process to ensure callers are provided reliable options.
Innovate Memphis designed, launched and administers the 901RideChoice program. Following a soft launch, the first phase of the program rolled out in April. Innovate Memphis spent time examining the model and getting a better understanding of how it works in other communities and how to develop a solution that fits Memphis’ needs. The program also addresses some recognized transportation issues, including individuals in need of non-emergency transportation calling 911. That call volume obviously affects those in a real emergency. Over time, Innovate Memphis hopes 901RideChoice can reduce non-emergency 911 calls, freeing emergency resources.
901RideChoice has been received well. “A lot of people are very curious about what it is,” said Courtney McNeal, community engagement specialist with Innovate Memphis. “This is the information-sharing phase. We do understand we may have more calls with people inquiring about this project vs. people calling to schedule a ride. That’s what we anticipated. People are excited it exists because there are so many options and they aren’t aware of all of them. It’s a win-win, not only for those who need transportation options but those transportation providers who want to connect.”
The program aims to serve seniors and individuals living with disabilities who reside in Memphis, but there isn’t a defined boundary. “It depends on the transportation provider that best fits the person’s needs,” McNeal said. “For example, a transportation provider might not go to Millington. But Memphis is covered. In terms of the county, it depends.”
The next phase will likely roll out in the fall. It will include the call center representative taking additional steps to schedule transportation for the individual. The future growth of the program depends on securing additional funding. An important part of the early phase of the program’s roll out is educating those individuals in the community who have transportation needs that the service exists. Any organizations or companies that work with those individuals that the program targets play an important part by informing others. 901RideChoice has a variety of brochures and posters it can distribute that will help spread the word. For more information, visit 901RideChoice.com. The call center is open Monday – Friday 9am- 5pm at (901)743-3901.
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