New partnership offers free rides to vaccines, low-cost rides to essential trips in Washtenaw County

Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF) have partnered with the AARP to provide a one-stop shop for people in Washtenaw County to get free rides to COVID-19 vaccination appointments and low-cost transportation to other essential trips. 

AARP created a system, powered by mobility services nonprofit Feonix Mobility Rising, called AARP Ride@50+. This system includes a call center, an app, and a website that allows individuals to find, schedule, and pay for transportation for essential trips including vaccinations, doctor’s appointments, pharmacies, and grocery stores. AARP Ride@50+ does not currently provide transportation for social, retail, or restaurant trips. AARP membership is not required to use the program, but this system mainly focuses on increasing the mobility of older adults. 

Based on the user's location, preferences, and length of ride, the system determines which transportation provider is best for an individual's needs. AARP Ride@50+ provides access to a network of local mobility providers and volunteer drivers. The program’s use of volunteer drivers allows for a reduced ride fee. 

Thanks to a grant from AAACF, this program has also been able to implement free rides for people of any age who need transportation to a COVID-19 vaccination appointment through the Vaccinate Washtenaw Project. 

The Vaccinate Washtenaw Project provides quick COVID-19 vaccination appointment booking and transportation for Washtenaw County residents to and from appointments in Washtenaw County. AAACF pledged money to help eliminate technological, transportation, and economic limitations that make it hard for people to receive their vaccinations. 

“COVID-19 has so severely impacted our community on a myriad of levels,” says Chris Lemon, senior community investment officer at AAACF. “This seems to be our chance right now to really lean into a program which addresses the inequities and those barriers so that everyone has the chance to get the shot.”

With the help of TMNA, AARP Ride@50+ has been able to expand to multiple locations nationwide, including Washtenaw County. With over 8.84 million seniors relying on others for transportation, TMNA recognizes the need for easier access to transportation for older adults to make essential trips, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic at large. 

“Toyota is a mobility company focused on improving and providing access to mobility options for vulnerable populations,” says Yumna Bham, mobility program leader for TMNA. “Transportation really should not be a limiting factor when it comes to living a full life, and so being able to implement and support the vulnerable population through this mobility-as-a-service technology will aim to really increase mobility, decrease social isolation, and improve medical outcomes.” 

To use AARP Ride@50+, call (844) 900-4892, download the Android or Apple app, or visit the program's website.

For more Concentrate coverage of our community's response to the COVID-19 crisis, click here.

Maria Patton is a lifelong Ypsilanti resident. She is currently a student at the University of Michigan, working towards a bachelor’s degree in communications and media. You can find more of her work in The Michigan Daily, where she is a columnist for the Michigan in Color section. She can be reached at pattonma@umich.edu.
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