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Following CARE Van complaints, GRTC launches ‘flexible’ on demand service

GLEN ALLEN, Va. -- John Morris lost his vision when he was only a year old, so he really cannot remember what it is like to see. Morris has run the front desk at Schnabel Engineering for 20 years and lives independently, but getting a ride around town can be a challenge.

Since last December, Morris has used a new GRTC program for CARE customers that provides rides on demand. The GRTC CARE program provides door to door rides for people with disabilities and the elderly, but has seen its share of problems over the years.

The CBS 6 Problem Solvers have reported on multiple customer complaints that CARE vans arrived late or never showed up.  Last year, constant complaints from CARE customers led to the ouster of the previous service provider.

John Morris

Morris said he has no such issues with the new CARE On Demand service. The new service allows customers to arrange for individual rides, similar to how the ride sharing companies Uber or Lyft function, that can show up as quickly as five minutes after a customer calls for one.

CARE On Demand customers can order the rides online, over the phone, or with a newly launched app.

Morris remembers the first time he used CARE On Demand.

"I used it that Saturday, December 2, to go to my company Christmas party," he said.  "On a personal level, I don't have to depend on anybody from work or any of my other friends to give me rides to places."

CBS 6 asked GRTC if the constant complaints about the CARE van system featured in Problem Solvers stories led to the new platform.

"Absolutely, and we've certainly seen a positive response from those customers who have tried Care On Demand," said Carrie Rose-Pace, Director of Communications for GRTC. "It's just flexibility, it lets you live your life during that day without being tied to 'I have this preset reservation I made five days ago.'"

The CARE van system is still is place; however, Rose-Pace said they have seen an uptick in CARE On Demand users since the program launched last August.

GRTC has partnered with both Uzurv and Roundtrip to coordinate and execute CARE On Demand rides. Roundtrip is a Richmond-based start up that launched in 2016, and began their partnership with GRTC in December 2017.

"Our goal is to streamline the entire process. Make it easy on GRTC riders, and also make it easy for medical transportation providers" said Ankit Mathur, CTO of Roundtrip.

Prior to the On Demand Service, CARE riders had to schedule their rides days in advance.

Mathur said their platform allows CARE riders with specific medical needs to link up with a company that can provide the transportation arrangements necessary with Roundtrip coordinating the details of the trip behind the scenes. According to Mathur, more basic rides can arrive within minutes after booking, and specialized transportation options arrive at a customer's location in under an hour.

"Everything from a non-emergency ambulance, a wheel chair van, a medical sedan, or a Lyft through our national partnership," he said. "There is no more having to wait around and hope that a ride shows up on time.  We increase the transparency of the trip for that rider, and we also want to make sure that throughout the entire trip sequence everyone is notified of the status of that ride."

CARE On Demand riders receive text messages when their ride is close and when it has arrived. Those messages include the name of the driver, the model vehicle they are driving, and phone number to reach them at.

UZURV began their partnership with GRTC with the launch of the program.  The Richmond-based compnay said since its inception, UZURV has provided CARE On Demand customers with more than 6,000 rides with a on-time rate of 98%.

UZURV said their drivers are ADA and CPR trained and certified, and CARE customers can individually vet and select specific drivers with whom they have developed personal relationships.

Although CARE On Demand was initially launched as a pilot program, Rose Pace said GRTC plans to extend the program beyond the pilot year set to end in July.

Morris said he is glad to hear that CARE On Demand will continue because of the freedom it has provided him at work and home.

"I'm very, very happy with the service," Morris said.

You can learn more about the GRTC CARE On Demand program here.  You can schedule a CARE On Demand ride through Roundtrip online click here or call 877-396-8080.  You can contact UZURV about CARE On Demand rides by calling 804-499-3400.

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