Ben Franklin Transit offers many options for those who can’t drive
We all like our independence and freedom to come and go when and where we want. So when it comes time to hang up the car keys for good because of failing health or to save money, questions are going to race through your mind.
[blockquote quote=”Riding the buses can be intimidating for someone who’s never done it before.” source=”Christy Watts, Ben Franklin Transit” align=”right” max_width=”300px”]
How will I get to the grocery store, the dentist or get my dog to the vet?
The answers are driving Tri-Cities’ streets right now — Ben Franklin Transit buses and vans.
For anyone who’s never used mass transit, or if it’s been a few decades, there’s also help for learning to navigate the system, “Travel Training,” courtesy of Ben Franklin Transit.
“We have a fairly robust and free travel training system,” said Christy Watts of Ben Franklin Transit.
The company has three trainers; two speak Spanish as well as English. They help transit customers map out routes to where they need to go, learn which buses to catch and how to read the schedules. Then they will even ride with you until you’re comfortable using the transit system, Watts said.
“Riding the buses can be intimidating for someone who’s never done it before,” she said.
Ben Franklin Transit offers several options for getting around town. There are the big buses that travel fixed-routes. Depending on where you live, you can ride one or more to get to your destination.
The buses run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Friday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.
No bus stop nearby? Opt for the transit’s shuttle service, called taxi feeder. Call 545-0684 at least 30 minutes before you need to arrive then walk to the pick up point.
“Unlike hiring a regular taxi this is not a curb-to-curb service. Instead we have pick up points scattered around the cities. The taxi will deliver you, and perhaps several other transit customers, to the nearest bus stop where you’ll continue your trip,” Watts said.
You will pay the taxi driver a fare depending upon the distance of your trip. Also you’ll need to pay the regular bus fare when you board the bus.
“The drawback to the fixed-route buses and the taxi feeder shuttles is that people who use wheelchairs may not be able to use them,” Watts said.
All the buses are American Disabilities Act compliant but not all the taxis are equipped to handle wheelchairs.
Watts said some of the larger electric scooters pose problems for the buses too.
“They’re simply too big and some of the larger strollers don’t fit either,” Watts said, explaining that for safety nothing can block the center aisle.
If that’s the case Dial-A-Ride vans are the solution.
“Dial-A-Ride is for everyone with a disability, there’s no age limit though people think they’re just for the elderly. With Dial-A-Ride, it’s all about the disability,” she said.
To use the service, you’ll need to fill out an application and answer a few medical questions. The form is available on the transit system’s website, www.bft.org. You can also find it and fill it out at the Three Rivers Transit Center, 7109 W. Okanogan Place, Kennewick, or call 735-0160 and then 3, to request a form be mailed to you.
“Some people use Dial-A-Ride all the time, others just occasionally like when it’s snowy or severely hot or cold. For some, the fixed-route buses are more convenient because you don’t need to make a reservation as you do with Dial-A-Ride,” Watts said.
Ben Franklin Transit also offers a night service to use after the buses stop running for the day. It begins at 6:30 p.m. and goes until 1:30 a.m., Monday-Saturday.
“It’s for people who have medical appointments at night, maybe for dialysis, who work nights or even just want to go out to the movies,” Watts said. “This would be a shared ride, the taxi would pick up several people and drop them off at different places.”
To book a taxi, call Tri-City Taxi after 2 p.m. at 545-0684.
“It’s best to call earlier, rather than later. That way you’re more likely to get a ride at the time you request,” she said.
Tri-City Taxi/Ben Franklin Transit also offer this service on Sundays but only from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Fares range from 75 cents to $3, depending on the service used.
Seniors 65 years of age and older can ride free on any of the fixed-route buses. You’ll need to get a special ID card from the transit company at either the Three Rivers Transit Center or by calling Ben Franklin Transit’s customer service department, 735-5100.
Full information on fares, routes and other information is on the transit company’s website, www.bft.org.
With the exception of the taxies space is limited.
“Riders are welcome to carry on their groceries, but only what they can carry themselves. Our bus drivers don’t have time to get out and help with packages,” Watts said.
Pets can ride the transit system but only if they’re in a carrier. Service dogs, of course, are always welcome.
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For more information visit www.bft.org or call 509-735-5100. Visit the Three Rivers Transit Center at 7109 W. Okanogan Place, Kennewick.