photo credit

Viva Via: Riding Along with Westminster’s New Free Transportation Service

Viva Via: Riding Along with Westminster’s New Free Transportation Service


 

Outside the front entrance of the Residences at Panorama Pointe — a 62-and-older living community in Westminster — two women stand next to their collapsible two-wheeled carts. Both are ready for their midday outing, which would be much more difficult or even impossible without the help of the City’s newest transportation service. 

Gayle Byron, 80, has on a red floral top and light amber sunglasses, while Dolores Wolfe, 86, has a thin sweater at the ready. Their styles differ, but both are wearing comfortable sneakers as they await the arrival of the white bus that will carry them to their destination: King Soopers on 104th & Federal Boulevard. 

Gayle and Dolores are making the most of Westminster’s new partnership with Via Mobility Services, a program that offers Westminster residents a free ride within 15 miles of their homes. Residents age 60 and older, or residents experiencing short- or long-term disabilities are eligible for the program, and can take trips for almost any purpose, including doctor’s appointments, recreational activities, seeing friends, or in Gayle and Dolores’ case, a grocery run. 

“It’s also a social thing for us,” Gayle says. “We prefer the stores that have a Starbucks in them so we can sit and socialize after shopping.” 

The Pickup 
The white bus with Via branding pulls up, and a woman wearing a blue branded polo shirt opens the doors and steps outside. Mary Mendez has been driving for eight years and loves that she can provide a much-needed service to the community. 

“I took care of my mom, so I saw firsthand how difficult it was,” she says. “I didn’t know about mobility transportation like this, so when I took my mother to doctor’s appointments, it was really difficult because she was not mobile.” 

Mary helps the women step onto the bus, then grabs their folding carts and places them toward the back. The bus is equipped with a lift that can be used for wheelchairs, scooters, or anything else that is too bulky to carry up steps. 

“That lift is a godsend,” Mary says. She mentions how she had to use her personal vehicle to take care of her mother, and would have loved having a lift back then. 

The Arrival 
The ride to the store is smooth and quick, and upon arrival Mary helps Gayle and Dolores step down off the bus and unfolds their rolling carts for them. Helping with groceries and carts is a prime example of the extra service and care that separates Via from more limited transportation services for seniors and those with disabilities. 

“What’s different about Via is they provide door-through-door service,” said Debra Baskett, senior transportation and mobility planner for Westminster. “Instead of just pulling up to the curb or the driveway, they know if their customer needs assistance to get the door locked, put their coat on, or when they return home they can help bring groceries in. They are trained to go that extra mile.” Gayle and Dolores have a little under two hours to do their shopping. They don’t need all two hours, but intentionally booked a later pickup to have time for socializing.  

Once their shopping is done, the women are sitting at a small table in the Starbucks area near the produce section. Their rolling carts are full of groceries to take back to the Residences, and Gayle is happy to be sipping on her favorite – a grande latte.  

They chat about Dolores’ daughter who lives in France, and how her frequent visits to France have made Dolores a bit of a wine connoisseur. They talk about Gayle having graduated from high school in Westminster and seeing how much the place has changed over the years. They start to discuss a recent documentary about cowboys when the Via bus arrives a couple minutes early. 

“It’s nice to have something so reliable that you can depend on,” Gayle says. 

The Return 
Once the women make their exit, Mary uses the lift to load the full carts onto the bus. On the way back, both Gayle and Dolores say they want to see more people utilizing the service. They look forward to doing more trips with Via, hopefully to restaurants in the near future.  

After dropping off Gayle and Dolores and their groceries, Mary explains how she feels fulfilled after every trip. 

“It’s great to see them happy and get them to come out,” she says. “It’s a good service. Sometimes someone will say ‘Mary, I wish I could just ride around with you all day.’” 

This free transportation service is part of a one-year pilot program and operates Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., excluding holidays. To learn more about the City of Westminster’s partnership with Via and how to register for a ride visit: www.cityofwestminster.us/AccessibleTransportation. You may also book a ride by phone by contacting Via Mobility Services directly at (303) 444-3043.

Back to The Westy Word