Residents decided to take up the slack when public bus service was curtailed.
When Metro Transit officials cut back public bus service to the west metro community of Mound in 2010, it didn’t sit well with Mike Skinner.
Skinner, who is legally blind, uses public transportation extensively and felt that others would also be inconvenienced — or worse — by the elimination of weekend bus service and the reduction in downtown runs during the week.
“We’re pretty much stranded out here on the weekends,” Skinner said.
That’s not the only problem, he said. It can take up to two hours using transfers to take public transportation from Mound to the nearest hospital in Waconia, only 12 miles away.
To help those in need, Skinner and several community leaders created WeCAB —www.wecab.org —a grass-roots ride system that pairs riders with volunteer drivers in five adjoining west metro communities.
The system has 42 drivers and 217 riders, and in its first 21 months, it logged nearly 2,700 rides and more than 28,000 miles.
“We imagined it might be exclusively senior citizens,” said Pam Myers, retired school superintendent and WeCAB board member. “We were wrong.”
All kinds of users
The ride system has helped people looking for jobs who don’t have a car, seniors no longer able to drive, single moms who need to drop off a child or visit a food shelf, and people who need daily chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
WeCAB provides rides when public transportation is not available or too complicated, said part-time coordinator LuAnn Fransen. Riders must live in the service area of Mound, Spring Park, Navarre, Minnetrista, St. Bonifacius or Maple Plain.
They pay $2.50 for a one-way trip to banks, grocery stores, hairdressers, churches, the senior center, or any number of other local businesses, including the park and ride in Mound that connects with buses for more-distant destinations.
Fransen said one woman who takes the bus during the week to a job at a McDonald’s in Wayzata gets a WeCAB ride there and back on Saturdays and Sundays because there’s no weekend bus service.
Riders must be registered. Drivers receive training, and their backgrounds are checked. The system uses a computer program that allows riders to request rides by 4 p.m. for the next day, and drivers to accept them, based on availability.
“Volunteers like episodic opportunities to serve,” said Fransen. “They can pick and choose which time and day they want to drive.”
Slowing down, needing help
Cathy Bailey drives two or three times a week. Recently she picked up retired teacher Jerry Borseth from his home in Mound and drove him 14 miles to a medical appointment at Lakeview Clinic in Waconia.
As she waited for him to finish with a doctor, Bailey said she loves the volunteer work because the riders are so appreciative.
She directed the Gillespie Senior Center in Mound before retiring, so Bailey said she knows many of her riders, but she also meets lots of new people.