Senior transportation: Launching areas in ITNSouthernDelaware’s crosshairs

DAGSBORO – Spread the word, says Nancy Feichtl: Community-based transportation to serve Sussex County’s aging population is on another launching pad.

With roots already planted in the Rehoboth Beach area, two portions of lower Delaware are in the cross-hairs as targeted areas of ITNSouthernDelaware – a transportation cooperative striving to provide dignified, sustainable and affordable transportation for seniors 55 and above and adults with visual impairments.

Currently in launch mode is Sussex County’s 4th district, which encompasses Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach and the Ocean View and Bethany Beach areas.

“We are having a massive launch,” said Ms. Feichtl, ITNSouthernDelaware founder in a recent presentation to Dagsboro mayor and council. “We are going to spend two to three months launching big in an area. Our launch plan starts in the councilmatic district that is George Cole’s. We have quite a few already there.”

The second launch, slated for later this year, covers the southernmost portion of the county. “We’re then hitting the area of Rob Arlett’s councilmatic area at the end of August. For three months we will launch,” Ms. Feichtl said.

An affiliate of ITNAmerica, the cooperative banks on rider memberships and volunteer drivers who bank miles for their future use; miles can also be donated to another designated rider’s account.

Businesses are pitching support through discounts and incentives. Through ITNSouthernDelaware, all rides to eye appointments are free.

According to Ms. Feichtl, State Sen. Gerald Hocker has agreed to pay for rides to his family’s business. Additionally, several restaurants and dentists plan to join as members. At Beebe hospital, about 20 of their practices will pay for half of ride costs, Ms. Feichtl said.

Annual cooperative memberships are $40 for individual and $70 per household. Members establish an account through the cooperative. Payment for rides comes from the account. No money changes hands between rider and driver and tipping is not permitted.

Cost per ride includes a $2.50 pickup fee and $1.25 per mile, or $20 per hour over 50 miles. Rides can be scheduled 24/7 seven days a week.

Dependable transportation, Ms. Feichtl says, is desperately needed in Sussex County given the county’s attraction as a retirement haven that is feeding its well-above-average growth in the senior population.

Nancy Feichtl addresses Dagsboro town council on ITNSouthernDelaware, a dignified transportation service for seniors. Two membership/driver launchings are set in the lower portion of the county in the coming months.

“Sussex County is oldest county in the nation,” said Ms. Feichtl. “In most states in this country the average for people 65 and above is 16 percent. In dense states like Florida … it is 23 percent. Currently, Sussex County is 38 percent 65 and above.  And within two more years we’ll be 44 percent 65 and above. In the next five years, of the 65 and above group, 12,000 will be 85 and above.”

“We will have gone from having 10 years ago 21,000 that were 65 and above to having 88,000 in a few years. And we don’t have viable transportation,” said Ms. Feichtl, who is a volunteer driver as is her husband.

Volunteer drivers are screened through criminal background checks, which are paid for by ITN. Drivers, who must have clean DMV records, receive free membership.

As of February, ITNSouthernDelaware’s membership had surpassed 300, mostly in the Rehoboth Beach/Long Neck areas. The monthly average of trips is about 175. “Our goal is to get up to 500 trips a month,” said Ms. Feichtl.

“Our greatest problem is we have the liability of the unoccupied miles,” Ms. Feichtl said. “So, while we are trying to get lots of drivers and riders in the same area, they put in the bank 20 miles to come here and back. We lose money on the long-distance trips.”

ITNSouthernDelaware became an affiliate of ITNAmerica on June 2, 2015. To officially get started, it had to raise $150,000; and $230,000 was raised, Ms. Feichtl said.

The first ride was provided on Dec. 2, 2015.

Ms. Feichtl, who provided transportation for her parents when they were in their 80s and could no longer drive, said selfish reasons facilitated her pursuit of this cooperative initiative.

“I got worried about this problem,” she said. “Then I got thinking: ‘Who is going to carry me around?’ My son lives in San Francisco and my daughter lives in Annapolis.’”

For more information, visit the cooperative’s website: www.itnsoutherndelaware.org or call (302) 448-8486.

ITNSouthernDelaware Services

  • Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week;
  • Available for any type of ride within the service area, with no limitations on ride purpose;
  • Available for health and wellness trips 5 miles outside of the perimeter of our service area;
  • Rides are provided in private automobiles by trained drivers;
  • People 55 years and older, and adults with visual impairments are eligible to join;
  • Rides may be booked at any time; discounts are applied for shared rides and advance notice;
  • Share a ride and receive a 20 percent discount.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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