Use of Lyft to transport people with disabilities to and from work, is expanding in the Twin Cities. A meeting was held this spring to discuss expanding the program in Washington County.
The nonprofit Rise, which supports people with disabilities and other barriers to employment, pays for rides through Lyft, the app-based ride-sharing service, then gets reimbursed through their clients’ Medicaid waivers. But finding Lyft drivers willing to make the trip to Forest Lake, in northern Washington County, can be difficult.
Rise program manager Andrew Owzarek requests a Lyft driver up to a month in advance for clients and schedules them to arrive as much as an hour early. Still, drivers sometimes cancel at the last minute, leaving Owzarek scrambling to find a replacement.
As he waited for a ride last week, Anderson said he doesn’t understand why there aren’t more Lyft drivers in the northern suburbs.
Reliable transportation is one of the most formidable barriers clients face, said Dan Meyers, Rise’s director of vocational evaluation and transitional services. He said the situation is especially dire in Forest Lake, home to about 20,000 people.
“Lyft is less reliable in communities like Forest Lake due to their smaller populations, and ride requests are sometimes answered from communities farther away, like Roseville or St. Paul,” Meyers said. “That can result in massive bills for trips that are sometimes only one or two miles. We’ve had bills upward of $100.”
Rise officials said they chose Lyft in September 2019 because of the company’s strong customer service, robust background checks for drivers and interest in working with nonprofit organizations. They hope to recruit more Lyft drivers in the Forest Lake area to help people get to work.
Drivers can set their own schedules and work directly with Rise on ride matches.
They can choose to drive a specific Rise client for just one route or drive several people to and from work throughout the week. They also have the option of driving for the general public.
(Source: Pioneer Press)