ST. JAMES—Mo Rides – Meramec makes connections – whether its getting an elderly lady to St. Louis for a medical procedure, getting a veteran to Columbia for an appointment at the VA hospital or getting a mom and her children across town to the health department. Mo Rides is a transportation referral service offered to residents of Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties and is administered by the Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC). Created as part of a mobility management strategy, Mo Rides attempts to fill gaps in service, coordination issues and a lack of knowledge by the general public of available transportation options.
    Mobility management is a strategic approach to service coordination and customer service that when applied to transportation focuses on:
•    Moving people, not vehicles;
•    Meeting the discreet needs of the individual consumer;
•    Providing service that extends through the entire trip;
•    Making improvements to the effectiveness, efficiency and quality of services; and
•    Improving information about these services.
    “We strive to create a scalable, replicable and sustainable coordinated transportation system based on partnerships, which provides reliable, flexible and affordable transportation for all residents of the eight-county Meramec Region,” Samantha Maddison, MRPC senior mobility coordinator/community development specialist, said. “Increasing transportation opportunities for all residents will require better use of existing services. Not all residents are aware of the different transportation services available to them.”
The referral service is at no cost to the rider, however, rides are not free. Riders pay the transportation provider directly. Mo Rides works to find the most affordable option by checking prices from multiple transportation providers. With the development of a voucher program by Mo Rides – Meramec, riders who demonstrate a financial need can receive a voucher for a portion of the trip fee, to help alleviate some of the financial cost of the ride.
“We have lots of success stories,” says MRPC Executive Director Bonnie Prigge. “We had one situation where SMTS brought the rider part of the way and OATS delivered the rider to her destination. We have had transit providers waive the wait fee and provide round trip service for a rider who had to have a two-hour procedure at an area hospital. We are coordinating existing resources to help people reach their destinations.”
    Recently, the Mo Rides website, www.morides.org, was redesigned for increased user friendliness by providing a database of transportation providers in all Missouri counties.
    “Educating the public on the existence and use of the website to easily find the transportation options available to them across the region will increase ridership, increase mobility, and ultimately increase available services,” Maddison said.
    Persons needing rides can access the website 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week and see who is providing transportation services. They can contact the providers directly or they can contact Mo Rides – Meramec to assist them in making connections, especially if they can’t find a provider who can meet their needs.
    Funding for the referral service comes from the United States Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration, administered by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), and the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council (MoDDC).
For more information on Mo Rides - Meramec, contact Samantha Maddison at 573-265-2993 Ext. 113 or email her at smaddison@meramecregion.org.
Formed in 1969, MRPC is a voluntary council of governments serving Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties and their respective cities. A professional staff of 23, directed by the MRPC board, offers technical assistance and services, such as grant preparation and administration, housing assistance, transportation planning, environmental planning, ordinance codification, business loans and other services to member communities.
To keep up with the latest MRPC news and events, visit the MRPC website at www.meramecregion.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/meramecregion/.
-30-