TELLURIDE, Colo. – (June 28, 2017) Pattie, a long-time West End resident in her mid-80s, has suffered for many years with a chronic medical condition that made it difficult for her to live independently and impossible for her to drive. Her illness put a huge burden on her daughter, who lives 2 hours away. Because Pattie could no longer drive, her daughter would drive 2 hours to pick her up, take her to the doctor, then drive 2 hours back home again the same day to care for her own children. When Pattie needed surgery, her daughter had to add several additional pre-surgery appointments to her schedule. This was a stressful and prohibitively expensive situation for everyone concerned. Unfortunately, Pattie’s story is not unique in our rural region, where public transportation options are expensive or nonexistent and most people suffer in the shadows.
However, Pattie, her daughter, and other residents of Telluride and neighboring communities will soon have another option to get them where they need to go. Thanks to $25,000 in grants and donations raised by the Telluride Foundation, Liberty Mobility Now, aka “Liberty,” will launch their rural on-demand ride sharing services in our region later this summer in partnership with local nonprofit organization, Tri-County Health Network.
Liberty provides a technology framework, smartphone application, website, and call center for individuals and organizations to request transportation support. In addition to collaborating with and providing a one-stop shop for existing private and public transportation providers, Liberty will train a group of volunteer drivers, who will drive their own vehicles, to meet the demand for transportation when and where options are limited. Wheelchair accessible vehicles, trucks, mini-vans, SUVs, and sedans will be driven by Tri-County Health Network volunteer drivers. Combining all transportation options through a single interface, Liberty creates the ability for individuals in rural communities to travel independently, on-demand, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and pay as they go.
“It’s a very unique model,” explains Rasa Kaunelis of Tri-County Health Network, which is partnering with Liberty to launch their services. “Liberty not only provides what one would consider very “Uber” or “Lyft” like services to the general public, but also focuses on providing much needed medical and critical services transportation to those most in need: those living in our region’s most remote rural areas and in communities that lack affordable or no transportation options.”
Liberty aims to bring a more “altruistic” approach to ride-sharing by focusing on building a customer base among passengers and pairing them with drivers trained to meet the individualized needs of each passenger. Liberty drivers offer their services on a volunteer basis but are reimbursed for every mile they drive when transporting a Liberty rider. “We actively recruit drivers that are already providing this service for friends or family but maybe just don’t have enough money to be able to offer it to everybody,” explains Liberty founder, Valerie Lefler.
In addition to providing passengers with on-demand service, Liberty also works with existing transportation services, including taxi, shuttle, and public transit to connect riders with all of their public transit options. “[W]e are heralded as a rural ride-share program, but our main mission is mobility as a service,” Lefler explains. “It is our goal to connect individuals to all transportation options available to them and provide individuals a choice as to what option they wish to use.”
This unique Liberty approach has been welcomed by many rural communities: it fits in with long traditions of neighbors helping neighbors. It’s also an important component that enables Liberty to receive contributions and grant funding from both federal and local governments to supplement the cost of service for low income individuals. In addition to the $25,000 award from the Telluride Foundation, Tri-County Health Network has secured a $30,000 grant from the Colorado Health Foundation and $10,000 from Caring for Colorado to launch Liberty in our rural region. Funding from these organizations will help provide subsidized rates to those most in need to allow them to easily access critical services such as medical appointments and rides to the grocery store to buy food.
For those who do not qualify for subsidized rides, riders will pay $1.00 per mile and a small per ride booking fee to utilize the service. Volunteer drivers are reimbursed for gas and the use of their private vehicle.
Liberty is currently hiring local drivers as well as an Area Manager – based in Telluride – who will be responsible for building and managing the team of drivers. If you are interested in learning more about these positions, please visit their website @ www.libertymobilitynow.com.
For more information on Liberty launch details contact Rasa Kaunelis at Tri-County Health Network: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Telluride Foundation exists to create a stronger Telluride community through the promotion and support of philanthropy. It is a nonprofit, apolitical community foundation that provides year-round support for local organizations involved in arts, education, athletics, charitable causes, land conservation and other community-based efforts through technical assistance, education and grant making. As a grant maker, the Foundation awards grants to qualified applicants who serve the people living and working in the Telluride area for the purpose of enhancing the quality of life within the region. For more information on the Telluride Foundation, visit www.telluridefoundation.org.