The Will-Ride transportation program makes it possible for seniors and the disabled to work, socialize and get to appointments
Photo Credit and News Article By Karen Haave – Cornerstone Media
Eastern Will County officials were in a celebratory mood on Friday afternoon after a ribbon-cutting that ceremonially launched Will-Ride, a Dial-A-Ride program for residents unable to use standard public transportation.
Will-Ride will transport eligible Will County residents to and from work, grocery stores, local shopping centers, nursing homes, village halls, restaurants, medical appointments, visits to family, beauty salons and to any township or village sponsored event.
Eligible residents are those who live within participating Township/Sponsors and are age 60 or older and/or have a disability.
Participating Townships are Peotone, Monee, Crete, Beecher, Will, Washington, Green Garden and Frankfort.
Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, meanwhile included comments from Kirk Dillard, Chairman of the RTA Board of Directors.
“As many of you know, about four years ago, the RTA began working with Will County to develop a Coordinated Paratransit Study,” he said.
“This study was the first step in understanding what transit services existed and what was needed throughout the county. That initial work has continued to grow and develop under the guidance of Will County Executive Larry Walsh, leading up to today, when we come here to mark the expansion of the Will-Rde Service throughout the county.
“The RTA is proud to have been an important partner in this work,” Dillard continued.
“Our agency has provided federal funding assistance of about $600,000 towards making this important service a reality. These funds, combined with an important local match, have made it possible for Will County Townships to provide transportation service to residents who do not have access to standard public transportation. These residents aren’t able to use Metra’s and Pace’s services, and for many, that can be very isolating.
“Will-Ride can serve as a lifeline that allows qualifying seniors and persons with disabilities to see their friends and family, as well as get to doctors’ and other important appointments when needed. It will be critical to their quality of life.
“We are glad to have been a part of this work,” Dillard added, “and look forward to being part of its continued success.”
Monee Township Supervisor Donna Dettbarn, who hosted the ribbon-cutting event at her Township building on Egyptian Trail, said that Will-Ride is a much-needed program that will help fill the gap left with the 2010 closing of the Senior Services Center in Monee.
“This is really an exciting day,” she said, “and it’s something that we have been working on for a long time.
“This is an expensive program, but it is a needed program. There are many senior citizens who do not have access to public transportation.”
Dettbarn also told CornerStone Media that with Monee Township’s $530,000 annual budget–a third of which goes to the Monee Township Assessor’s office–a program like Will-Ride would be financially out-of-reach without a coordinated effort with other agencies.
“We are not funding the program,” she emphasized. “That’s an important point.”
Dettbarn also praised former Washington Township Supervisor Bob Howard–now a Will County Board Member from District 1–for his early recognition of a need for a program like Will-Ride and his ongoing efforts to make it a reality.
Like Dettbarn, Frankfort Township Supervisor Jim Moustis also credited Howard for his commitment to providing a transportation program for seniors and the disabled.
“Bob has been a champion,” Moustis said, noting that for those who cannot drive themselves, Will-Ride is more than just transportation.
“It’s a service for a segment of the population that is important: people with disabilities, seniors. It’s not just a ride. It gives them back their independence.
“So it’s extremely important.”
Illinois State Representative Al Riley was invited to the event, but like Will County Executive Larry Walsh, had a conflict of schedule and was unable to be there.
Speaking on Riley’s behalf was his legislative assistant, Marta Perales, who read a prepared statement from him.
“I want you to know how overjoyed I am to mark the start of the Will-Ride program,” Riley said in his statement.
“As many of you know, I have been an advocate for transportation funding equity and the expansion of transit services throughout Northeastern Illinois.
“With the advent of the Will-Ride program, more of our riding public in the south suburban region will be able to take advantage of transit services tailored specifically for their needs. Coupled with the excellent and efficient paratransit programs in Rich, Thornton and other south suburban townships, the Will-Ride program will serve as a necessary adjunct for a vital and growing population center: that is, all of the participating townships in the Will-Ride program.
“As chair of the House Mass Transit Committee, know that I will always be there to inform you of important transit policy decisions that may have an impact on the Will-Ride program.
“By the way, no great initiative could be created without the help of dedicated individuals and many of whom are present today, including Ms. Wendy Garlich, mobility manager for the Will-Ride program.
“Once again, thank you for your dedication and diligence, which has lead to the beginning of a great public service to the local riding public,” Riley’s statement concluded. “When there is a need to be addressed, collaboration ensures success.”
Collaboration, in fact, was a significant factor in moving the Will-Ride effort forward, according to Nick Palmer, Will County Executive Office Chief of Staff.
Palmer, serving as master of ceremonies for the ribbon-cutting, said that end result of the cooperative effort “is one of many steps forward.”
“We’re here to celebrate progress in Will County,” he said.
Other guests at the event included Illinois State Representative Anthony DeLuca and RTA Board member J.D. Ross.
Peotone Township Supervisor David W. Cann was unable to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony, but he told CornerStone Media that Peotone Township will assist riders “as we can.”
“Unfortunately, due to the size of Peotone Township, we are participating in the Will-Ride program on a very limited basis and not to the extent of Monee Township.
“We will assist riders as we can but only to our budgeted amount and each request is subject to review for approval for medical needs only,” he noted.
Meanwhile, to become eligible for the program, residents must sign up with their township/sponsor.
Will-Ride buses operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Weekend and holiday hours are not available.
Rides within the resident’s township are $2 one way, $4 round-trip. Rides outside of the resident’s township are $4 one way and $8 round-trip. Rides must be scheduled 24 hours in advance by calling 800-244-4410.
For more information on the “Will Ride” program, visit the website: www.willcountyillinois.com and click on the “Will Ride” icon.