Road Runner: New service in Tucson to offer rides to elderly, visually impaired

2013-09-09T00:00:00Z Road Runner: New service in Tucson to offer rides to elderly, visually impairedBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Kathy Wilson wasn’t expecting to be behind the wheel during the Labor Day weekend.

The executive director of a new nonprofit offering discounted rides to elderly Tucson residents and those who are visually impaired, Wilson had been fairly busy with various administrative duties.

About 10 people have signed up for the service, known as iTN GreaterTucson, but Wilson had only a handful of volunteer drivers signed up to pick up clients of the new service with their personal vehicles.

So when the phone rang over the holiday weekend, it was Wilson’s turn to take people where they wanted to go. One of those trips had her taking someone to a local casino.

The service started in Portland, Maine, more than 20 years ago when founder Katherine Freund’s 3-year-old son was hit by an elderly man with dementia.

She was inspired to create

iTNAmerica, offering a low-cost alternative to senior citizens who should no longer be behind the wheel.

Today, iTNAmerica affiliates exist in 15 states, offering thousands of rides every week.

The model offers a lower cost than a taxi, Wilson said.

Memberships rates are $100 a year for one person and $150 for a family. In addition to the membership rate, members must also pay a $2 pickup charge and $1.50 per mile.

No money changes hands. The accounts are online, with individuals prepaying before even climbing into a vehicle.

Services like Sun Van and Sun Shuttle are certainly cheaper with their $3-a-ride flat fee, but don’t offer the direct door-to-door service. Often riders might have to wait while others are dropped off or picked up before they reach their destination.

The service is still in its infancy in Tucson, and Wilson is looking for volunteers with suitable transportation.

Think a minivan, not a Miata.

Eventually, she envisions a small fleet of vehicles driven by paid employees offering members round-the-clock service.

But for now, Wilson is hoping she will be able to sign up more volunteers willing to give their time to help someone get to the grocery store, the doctor’s office or maybe, in some rare cases, the casino.

The service is expected to officially launch in November.

To learn more about the program, call 209-1645 or go to

itngreatertucson.org.

DOWN THE ROAD

• Tucson Department of Transportation contractors will close the intersection of Grant and Oracle roads at 9 tonight.

The temporary closure will allow workers to rebuild the intersection, which is expected to reopen at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. The intersection will be closed every night until Thursday morning when work will be completed.

• Lanes on Interstate 10 and Ruthrauff Road will be closed this week as Arizona Department of Transportation crews begin geotechnical work.

The drilling is part of the I-10 improvement project between West Ina and West Ruthrauff roads. Similar work is planned for Orange Grove Road and Sunset Road and over the Cañada del Oro Wash and the Rillito River.

Send your questions by email to roadrunner@azstarnet.com or to 4850 S. Park Ave., Tucson, AZ 85714. Please include first and last names.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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