Town’s Relationship with Transit Service Remains Strained

Despite efforts to improve services, the Cooperative Alliance for Regional Transportation’s (CART) relationship with the Londonderry Senior Affairs Committee remains strained.

Members of the Senior Affairs Committee expressed concerns at their Oct. 20 meeting about complaints from seniors having difficulty scheduling appointments for transportation.

According to Joe Green, town councilor and liaison to the Committee, some seniors have been stranded at appointments for which they had scheduled transportation.

“We haven’t seen any improvement,” he said. “People I’ve spoken to say they have called for an appointment and are told to call back two weeks in advance; but when they do, they are told the service is completely booked out. The left hand isn’t talking to the right hand. I don’t sleep well factually knowing seniors that need care are missing doctor’s appointments.”

CART Director Mark Nelson, who stepped into the role over the summer, said he met in May with seniors at the Londonderry Senior Center to describe CART’s services and get a sense for how the organization can better serve the community.

“This is all news to me,” he said of the most recent concerns raised at the meeting. “I went out and sat down with (Senior Center Director Cathy Blash) and the seniors for breakfast and brought our contractor, Easter Seals. We outlined our services to make sure they understood what is available. Some people had some pretty specific instances where they had problems, and I thought we worked through all that.”

Since the meeting, Nelson said neither he nor his contractor have received any complaints related to services provided in Londonderry.

CART, which serves Londonderry, Derry, Chester, Hampstead and Salem, offers a shuttle service through Rockingham Nutrition that takes seniors to the senior center for the nutrition program and other activities; and curb-to-curb, a shared-ride service that is available to any resident of the five service towns.

CART also provides a fixed-route shopping shuttle in Salem and has contracted for half-fare taxi rides for the elderly, disabled and those traveling to medical appointments and employment.

Londonderry has committed $25,000 annually to support CART’s services in the Town.

Nelson said patrons are sometimes frustrated when they are confused about what the various services provide.

Additionally, if a vehicle is out of service, it can prevent CART from making a scheduled appointment, according to Nelson.

“If a vehicle gets a flat tire, we do our best to relay information to the call center, who tries to notify people with rides, but sometimes communication breaks down because people don’t have cell phones and that can be a problem,” he said. “We will call the doctor’s office where someone is scheduled to be picked up, but the office may not relay that information.”

Additionally, Nelson noted the program depends on resources provided by the federal and state government, which have in recent years been limited.

“We’re not robust. I’m the only employee.  We’re trying to keep our expenses down and make sure the Town gets the most out of what we can do for them,” he said.

Members of the Senior Affairs Committee said they would like to begin considering other transportation options for Londonderry.

“When they call at 9:45 a.m. to tell a senior they can’t get them to a 9 a.m. doctor’s appointment, they are getting charged for missing the appointment,” Green said. “They’re also missing out on receiving those services and getting the prescriptions they need. This has become a health concern. We don’t have the bus, and the seniors need reliable transportation. CART is not reliable, in my opinion.”

Nelson plans to meet with the Committee to address the concerns at its Nov. 17 meeting.

In the meantime, Green plans to continue researching other options for Londonderry.

“We need everyone going in the same direction. Everyone is shying away from doing this privately. I’m not. I’d consider doing that. With the aging population in Londonderry, we don’t have enough focus on our seniors. We need to invest in this by re-focusing money for other expenses that are not as vital,” he said. “I won’t stop until we find a solution. We need to do better for the seniors.”

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