Beyond the Borders: Rides for rural residents

A transportation project for South Pierce County launches in Eatonville.

Here in Tacoma there are a myriad of transportation options – commuter rail, regional bus service and park-and-ride lots – for those without automobiles. And next month, Sound Transit’s Link light rail will begin service in downtown Tacoma.

For those who don’t have their own wheels, getting from Point A to Point B is relatively easy, if not as convenient with your own vehicle.

However, for those who live in the more rural portions of Pierce County, choices are limited when it comes to transportation.

The Pierce County Coordinated Transportation Coalition is hoping to change that, launching a demonstration project Monday in South Pierce County aimed at helping rural residents without transportation to get to and from work.

Called Beyond the Borders, the project kicked off at the Eatonville Community Center, attracting town officials, as well as local politicians and representatives from Pierce Transit.

“Is this group waiting for a bus?” joked Eatonville Mayor Harold Parnell to the assembled crowd on hand to receive orientation and eligibility information on the project, as well as witness the ribbon-cutting ceremony that would officially get the project under way.

Parnell reminisced about riding the stageline from Morton to Tacoma in the late 1930s through 1948, before introducing the next speaker, Rev. George Lockwood of Eatonville Methodist Church.

“This is indeed a start for a more extensive transportation network for southeastern Pierce County,” Lockwood said.

Beyond the Borders will help the area’s economy grow by bringing dollars back into town, Lockwood said, noting the project does not cost taxpayers any money.

Funded by federal and state transportation grants, the program is set to provide employment-related trips for people unable to transport themselves due to age, disability or income level.

By coordinating with other transportation programs, the project offers eligible passengers transportation to and from stores, pharmacies, social service agencies and other providers of essential services.

“You know, people in our county are really place-bound,” observed State Sen. Marilyn Rasmussen (D-2nd Legislative District). “Transportation should be for everyone.”

State Rep. Tom Campbell (D-2nd Legislative District) agreed, and praised the program: “This is a great example of a partnership working out.”

Pierce Transit spokesman Lind Simonsen said Pierce Transit was pleased to extend service to Eatonville and said the program would be a great benefit to individuals in the community.

Transportation services begin on Aug. 25, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. To schedule a ride, you must call 1-800-651-6507 a minimum of 48 hours before you need the ride. Riders can begin scheduling rides after Aug. 18.

Riders must meet eligibility requirements related to income. They must also complete a needs assessment form and provide proof of income or an award letter from the Department of Social and Health Services to meet eligibility guidelines. These papers must be completed and sent to Jacklyn Montgomery at 8811 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood, WA 98499 prior to scheduling a ride.

To get questions answered or for more information, please call 253/798-2831.

The Beyond Borders Project will only provide transportation from a street in Eatonville to a Pierce Transit bus stop in Graham, and does not provide door-to-door service, but will pick up riders from the nearest street.

Officials said the Beyond the Borders project in Eatonville is just the first step toward a county wide coordinated transportation system.

For more information on this project and other Pierce County Coordinated Transportation Coalition activities, visit piercecountyrides.com.

South Pierce County covers about 1,400 square miles outside of the Pierce Transit service area. The 43,000 people who live there have few transportation options other than driving a personal vehicle, with driving a non-option for many people.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related Stories