SACO — Residents of Saco who are 65 and older and who have transportation challenges can book a no-cost ride to a medical provider through a pilot program initiated by Age Friendly Saco.

The program begins Feb. 1, and those needing a ride are asked to book their reservation five days in advance, by calling (207) 200-7668 and leaving a voice mail. They will receive a call back from an Americorps volunteer. People may also email: [email protected].

Rides are available to medical providers as far north as Portland and as far south as Kennebunk.

“Initially these rides will be limited to medical appointments only and will cover the geographical area from Kennebunk to Portland,” said Age Friendly Saco Director Jean Saunders. She said the program is made possible through a Maine Community Foundation grant for Americorps members as part of the team providing the rides, as well as a $7,300 transportation grant from MCF.

The Saco Parks and Recreation Department and Biddeford Saco Old Orchard Beach Transit have collaborated with Age Friendly Saco on the pilot project.

Saco Parks and Recreation Community Outreach Coordinator Amelia Meier said AFS will use the agency’s minivan, and supply gas, tolls and help promote the new service.

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“Transportation continues to be an obstacle for older residents in the Saco area. A lot of people are still not familiar with rideshare services and apps like Uber and Lift, and although those are handy, those rides can get pretty expensive especially if someone is trying to get from Saco to Portland for an appointment,” said Meier. “This new on-demand transportation service will be door-to-door, and completely timed to accommodate important appointments for these residents.”

BSOOBT Executive Director Chad Heid said the agency is extending its assistance through Mobility Manager Perian Carpenter.

“Age Friendly Saco is filling an important gap,” by providing transportation for those unable to use a fixed route, said Heid.

Even as the new pilot program is set to kick off, Saunders is looking to the future.

“Age Friendly Saco hopes to be able to expand beyond just medical rides in the future to include other types of rides requested,” she said.

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