Philadelphia is one of the few American cities where buses, trains and other public transportation remains free or deeply discounted for seniors. What if you need a ride from your home, though?
Enter drivers such as those working with Surrey Services for Seniors in Devon, which offers free and low-cost rides in Delaware and Chester Counties weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Surrey uses both volunteers and paid drivers who are registered and known in the community. Reservations are required, and rides are first-come, first-served, arranged by calling 610-993-9493. You must be a member of nonprofit Surrey Services, which costs $35 a year. Transportation is offered regardless of income.
"When older adults in our service area need a ride, I want to set up an accessible, minimal-cost, no-fuss transportation solution," said Robert Madonna, president and CEO of Surrey Services.
"Nobody else in our area really does nonprofit transportation for seniors, but we do," Madonna said. "The average person doesn't think about older adults until it affects them. When a senior loses their license, we never see them again. So when they get rides through us, we also have eyes on them. Are they eating? Does the house smell? It's companionship and check-in."
Jeanne LaRouche founded Surrey Services in her attic in Wayne, and over the years it has expanded to locations in Devon, Havertown, Media and Broomall. Surrey also has been operating Meals on Wheels in the area and several full-service senior centers with gyms, lectures, even dental services.
The shared-ride program has been a hit. In fiscal 2017, Surrey completed 14,980 rides by 65 volunteer drivers and 10 paid drivers. So far in fiscal 2018, which started July 1, it has completed 924 rides.
Bob Andersen, 80, a retired lawyer who lives in Radnor, works as a volunteer driver for Surrey Services.
"About five years ago, I went over and signed up and got approved as a driver," Andersen said. "I spend about one day a week driving seniors to doctor's appointments, errands and grocery shopping. I don't leave them, I just stick around until they're finished."
He drives his own car – a Volvo SUV – and keeps a stool handy for seniors using walkers and canes who need help getting into his car.
"If you want to make a contribution and you're comfortable driving and being with older people, it's great. Even though I'm 80, I'm young by their standards," Andersen said. His oldest rider so far was 95.
Other ways to get around if you're a senior? In the city, a good place to look is the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, which offers information at http://www.pcacares.org/services-for-seniors/transportation/ and has a helpline, 215-765-9040.
SEPTA's bus, subway, and trolley lines in the city and the Norristown High Speed Line in the suburbs are free at all times for those 65 or older with a valid Pennsylvania Senior Citizen Transit ID card or Medicare card issued by the Social Security Administration. Regional Rail lines, serving suburban destinations in Pennsylvania, offer seniors and disabled passengers one-way rides for $1 during off-peak hours with a valid Senior Citizen Transit ID Card, Railroad Retirement Annuity Card, or Medicare card.
SEPTA's Shared-Ride program is a door-to-door, advance-reservation, ride-sharing service, offered on a space-available basis to those 65 years and older and residents of Philadelphia. The service can be used to travel within the city limits and to any location in the surrounding counties within three miles of the city's border. To register, visit http://www.septa.org/service/cct or call Shared-Ride coordinators in the suburban counties:
• Bucks County Transport, for Bucks County, 215-794-5554
• Rover Community Transportation, for Chester County, 610-594-3911
• Community Transit, for Delaware County, 610-490-3960
• TRANSNET, for Montgomery County, 215-542-7433
The Shared-Ride Program and ADA Paratransit Service are provided by contract carriers within the city and each suburban county. For eligibility requirements and to register, call CCT Customer Service weekdays at 215-580-7145.
New Jersey Transit offers passengers 65 and older and those with disabilities one-half or more off regular one-way fares at all times. Some discounts are available to those 62 and older. To be eligible, riders must present a valid New Jersey Transit Fare card or other ID or document printed with your date of birth and issued by a government, social service, or mass-transportation agency.