Written by Victoria Caruso-Davis Friday, 16 October 2009 00:00
In an effort to expand its menu of senior support services, North Hempstead Town last week launched a four-month long pilot program through which seniors can receive free taxi rides to run errands.
Through the trial program, which is funded by a grant from the United States Administration on Aging and falls under the umbrella of the town’s Project Independence initiative, North Hempstead seniors age 60 and older living at home will have access to door-to-door taxi service to go shopping.
“Our ultimate goal is to be able to help you get around to do the things that will help you maintain your independence and prolong your stay in the community of your choice,” said Supervisor Jon Kaiman, who was joined by Councilman Robert Troiano, Town Clerk Leslie Gross and New York State Assemblyman Charles Lavine at an Oct. 7 press conference held at the Westbury Senior Center.
“North Hempstead’s initiative to provide free taxi service to our senior citizens for shopping or doctor visits is a wonderful idea,” said Lavine, who worked with the town to secure the pilot program’s funding. “Our older residents often have to rely on traveling by bus or depend on friends and family for these trips and taxis are an easier and safer means of transportation for them.”
In addition to Westbury, the pilot program will also be available to seniors of New Hyde Park, Great Neck and Port Washington. If successful, it will ultimately go townwide.
So far, the town has contracted with two local cab companies, Port Washington-based Delux Transportation and Westbury-based Taxi Hispano Express, to provide the free service once a week. For Westbury residents, free taxi service will be available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays only from Oct. 20 through Feb. 9. The area to be served includes Westbury within the Town of North Hempstead east of Post Avenue, south of the Northern State Parkway and west of the Wantagh State Parkway along with all of New Cassel. The general destination is the Stop & Shop Shopping center on Old Country Road.
Residents who qualify for the program are asked to call 311 during the dates the pilot-program is offered in the local area.
“This taxi service program, along with the Project Independence program, will allow more seniors to ‘age in place’ and remain independent and able to live in their own homes,” said Mary Beth O’Connor, assistant director of the Westbury Senior Center.
While she believes many members will utilize the service, O’Connor said several have expressed concern about whether the program will accommodate those with disabilities.
According to town officials, taxi drivers will assist seniors using a wheelchair, walker or cane; equipment will be stored in the taxis’ trunk. Additionally, seniors who rely on an aide can have that person accompany them, at no cost.
Town Clerk Gross, whose office is responsible for licensing local taxi companies, added, “I’m honored to be part of a town that is taking the initiative to put in place programs that will help the seniors maintain a healthy lifestyle and the independence that they have become accustomed to.”
Troiano added, “There are people we know that are not quite shut-ins who can benefit greatly from this program. This will give them a sense of dignity and independence.”