Uber trips at a lower price are once again available for senior residents of Gainesville.
With a co-pay from as little as $0 to as high as $5, seniors who are over the age of 60 can participate in the Freedom in Motion program. They will have to schedule a meeting with ElderCare of Alachua County to go through the application process, said Anthony Clarizio, executive director of ElderCare of Alachua County.
Eligible seniors can find an Uber vehicle to pick them up any time of the day or night.
A rider can travel to any location as part of the program and vehicles will be able to accommodate fold-up walkers and wheelchairs.
As for seniors who don’t have access to the Uber app on their phones, Assurance Wireless helps low-income participants with a smartphone, Clarizio said.
“If no options are available and they are truly low income we can make arrangements for a loaner phone.”
The program, which began in 2015, is a collaboration of The City of Gainesville, Eldercare of Alachua County and the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.
It originally began as a six-month pilot, Clarizio said.
During the pilot, the program was only available to seniors living in Turkey Creek Forest and a downtown complex off of Main Street known as 400 Building, he said.
The rides eventually became available to more Gainesville residents.
“After 6 months we were able to start taking participants that lived anywhere in the city limits of Gainesville,” he said.
Despite the frequent usage of the program, Clarizio said that service became suspended in August when funding was exhausted.
“Freedom in Motion started with unlimited rides per month, reduced to 80 rides a month per participant and now due to the demand we offer 30 rides per month to participants,” he said.
“As of today, we have 130 participants.”
Funding restarted in October and the co-pay will be assigned per rider based on income and can range up to $5 per individual, he said.
The remaining cost of the ride will be paid out of the program’s funds provided by the city.
The City of Gainesville reimburses the Eldercare for the trips made through Uber, said assistant public information officer Chip Skinner in an email.
“We reimburse Eldercare as they invoice us, so funding may appear to stop when in reality, we have not received an invoice.”
The budget set for Freedom in Motion Uber rides is $36,000. Last year, all but $290 of that money was used, he said.
Shirley Bloodworth recalled her first experience using the Freedom in Motion program.
“My first ride was really wonderful. The driver was extremely friendly,” she said.
After going to the Senior Recreation Center and setting up the app on her phone, Bloodworth said she was ready to go.
“It was definitely an excellent experience. If I didn’t have a car and didn’t drive as much as I do, I’d do it again without a doubt.”