ORACLE- In 2001 when Pinal County began "On the Go Express" the operation had only a few vans and a limited service area.
Fast forward to 2005; today "On the Go Express" has 8 vehicles and carried 320 passengers in February of this year.
"We are grant funded," said On the Go Express Administrator Lisa Armenta. State lottery money, also known as LTAF money, is used to provide those who normally do not have a means of transportation a ride to a medical or a social service appointment.
"We're not here to take business away from anyone," Armenta stressed. "We are just an alternative for those who do not have transportation."
Complimenting Supervisor Lionel Ruiz for helping to get the program off and running Armenta said: "He recognized a lack of transportation options for those living in this area," commented Armenta. "We have seen some cases where an elderly person would pay a neighbor $20.00 for a ride to get to a doctor's appointment in Tucson. They would pay for gas and then pay for the person's food while they are in the city. In the end, that doctor's appointment would end up costing the person $75 to $80. For a person on a limited income, that is a lot of money.
"With On the Go Express, that trip costs them $2.00," she concluded.
Armenta speculated that 95 percent of all trips are for medical appointments with five percent for social service appointments. One catch, Armenta warns, is those who can use On the Go Express for medical appointments, they cannot fall under AHCCCS or Pinal/Gila Long Term Care coverage. "As part of their coverage, they have access to transportation."
On the Go Express serves people living in the eastern Pinal County area, seven of the vans are based in Oracle, while one van serves the Kearny area. "More people use the service out of Oracle," Armenta said. "Lately they seem to need the service more than anyone else." She added that if the call for more vans in the Kearny area is required, On the Go Express can provide them immediately.
Armenta is pleased that On the Go Express is fulfilling a need for those who have problems in securing transportation in a rural area. She points out numerous surveys from social service agencies that claim the need for transportation in rural areas is urgent. "Perhaps we may see this service enter other areas of Pinal County in the future."