Sunday, October 1, 2023

SPAN still rolling after challenging year

Before the pandemic, SPAN Denton County Transit Service typically provided 65,000 annual trips to about 1,500 seniors, people with disabilities, veterans and others. Since COVID-19 started shutting things down last March, ridership has been down about 50 percent but slowly returning.

SPAN officials want people to know their wheels have kept on turning.

“We’re trying to increase ridership,” said Diane Beck, SPAN’s mobility manager. “That the main goal. We’re on demand with door-to-door service. Our drivers will even come up to the door and help someone who is disabled.”

SPAN, which has been around since 1974, offers non-emergency transportation within Denton County that is outside the Denton County Transportation Authority’s Denton to Lewisville service area. Passengers make appointments to secure rides on more than 35 handicap-accessible vehicles vs. the regularly-scheduled service provided by DCTA.

“We’re trying to bridge the gap between DCTA and SPAN,” said Jona Coronado, SPAN’s transportation manager who supervises dispatch staff and drivers. “So, any time there is a need for anyone going outside of the DCTA service areas we’re able to step up and help for medical purposes.”

SPAN drivers pick up clients at their homes and take them to doctor visits, cancer treatments, physical therapy and other medical needs plus employment, shopping for necessities, etc.

The organization partners with the Texoma Area Paratransit System and the Denton County Transit Authority to make sure people get to where they need to go not just in Denton County but beyond including the Sam Rayburn Memorial Veterans Center in Bonham. It also works with the Flower Mound Seniors in Motion program.

Pricing differs based on type of trip and who is taking the trip. For the general public, the fee is $6 one way while seniors and disabled pay just $3. All eligible Flower Mound residents pay $5. SPAN serves people during the daytime hours from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. and is starting a pilot program in the evenings.

Service is only available to Flower Mound residents age 65 and older or with a verifiable disability. Outside Flower Mound, anyone who lives in Denton County is eligible.

“We want to help those people who are prevented from driving,” Coronado said. “We want to bridge that gap in mobility issues and be able to help them out and get them where they need to go otherwise they wouldn’t be able to go.

“A lot of times we’re the only people these people will see. They’re homebound or whatever their situation is. We’ve even had a story of a person who fell in their home and had scheduled a ride and our driver found them. It can be a life-saving situation.

“We’re pretty much their social interaction. They get to know our drivers on a one-on-one basis. They know who they are and feel very comfortable with our drivers. Most are retired. Our mission is to help people and they have huge hearts and love what they do and care what they do.”

Besides its transport service, SPAN delivers food to eligible people through its Meal on Wheels program and group lunches to various locations throughout the county. It also has a Senior Paws program where it assists homebound clients who can’t afford pet food by delivering pet products directly to client homes.

SPAN receives some funding from the United Way of Denton County, the Texas Veterans’ Commission’s Fund for Veterans’ Assistance, the Texas Department of Transportation and North Central Texas Council of Governments.

The organization is in the middle of a fundraising effort to construct a new building as it has outgrown its aging Denton headquarters. A gala is planned at the Courtyard by Marriott in Flower Mound on Oct. 24.

Anyone interested in securing rides can fill out an application on the website or call 940-382-1900.

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