When I need to get to work or run some errands, I grab my keys and hop into the car. Off I go, on my own schedule, under my own power. While this may seem an ordinary and mundane part of my day, it’s truly a luxury – one I’ve learned to appreciate.
Many in our community cannot drive themselves where they need to go due to physical or cognitive limits. Instead, they need to rely upon others to help them get to school, work, or community activities. While some people have family members or caregivers that can offer a lift, it’s more common that they don’t. So how do you work, socialize, or get to important appointments?
In Lewis County, Twin Transit’s comprehensive services fill this need for hundreds of riders throughout the cities of Chehalis and Centralia. One group who couldn’t carry out their mission without Twin Transit is Lewis County Work Opportunities (LCWO). The Chehalis based non-profit has been helping disabled adults in Lewis County gain the skills necessary to connect with meaningful work opportunities for more than 35 years. The organization aims to not only place disabled adults in jobs, but to aid them in learning interview skills, appropriate dress, and how to navigate public transportation, enabling their employment to be successful.
Aven Martin serves as a program coordinator at Lewis County Work Opportunities and knows how difficult and isolating life can be for those with disabilities. “The unemployment rate has hovered near 70% for disabled adults and has remained there since the 1960s,” she explains. And along with unemployment comes a feeling of seclusion and disengagement that can further separate individuals from their community.
By providing job skills training and employment assistance, LCWO hopes to help clients engage, connect and ultimately live happier, more productive lives. One key component to making this happen is reliable, consistent and safe transportation options. Twin Transit serves the city limits of both Chehalis and Centralia with some small extensions beyond the city borders. With a variety of busing options, Work Opportunities clients can get where they need to go efficiently and safely.
Donna Gauger, ParaTransit coordinator for Twin Transit, works closely with Martin to help match clients with the best service option for them. Donna explains Twin Transit’s different options for potential riders and how she assists with choosing the right one for each individual case.
Fixed Route Service
Fixed route is what most people think of when they picture riding the bus. You check the schedule, find a stop near you, and plan your route to get you where you need to go. Many LCWO clients can often utilize fixed route service with a bit of training. Gauger works together with Martin and other staff to assess each person’s unique needs and determine if their cognitive and physical abilities are a good match for fixed route.
Use of fixed route service requires some independent mobility, but with all Twin Transit vehicles outfitted with wheelchair lifts and ramps, many people are able to use this service even when in a wheelchair.
Riders with limitations, physical or cognitive, which prevent them from using fixed transit bus service can apply for Paratransit bus service. This option provides on-demand, door-to-door transportation for a cost that is significantly less than a taxi. Those wishing to use Paratransit apply through Gauger at Twin Transit. After an assessment of needs, a rider becomes either a subscription customer with unlimited ride scheduling each month or they become a pay-per-use customer.
Fixed Route Deviation Service
This last option is available in select areas where a fixed route bus runs close by someone’s home, but their mobility limitations, or the lack of infrastructure (sidewalks, crosswalks, etc.) prevents them from reaching the bus stop. While door-to-door Paratransit service is convenient, it also comes at a higher cost. If, after assessment, it is determined a rider could use fixed route service if the bus was able to pick them up with just a small detour off the normal route, a deviation can be arranged.
Clients at LCWO use all of these options, but the Paratransit service is by far the most widely used and most effective in helping establish someone with disabilities in meaningful employment. “The great thing with Twin Transit and their Paratransit service,” explains Martin, “is that they are a small transit group and they really know the riders.”
This is particularly important with disabled riders. Gauger and her Paratransit drivers take the time to listen and get to know each client, working to help them understand and use the system effectively. “Their concern for these vulnerable people is tremendous. Often, they just need someone to come along side them, not to push or pull, but to work together to get them moving towards their future,” concludes Martin.
Do you know someone who could benefit from Twin Transit’s flexible transportation options? Contact Donna Gauger at 360-330-2072 or visit Twin Transit online to learn more.
To learn more about Lewis County Work Opportunities visit them online or call 360-345-1094.