Providing nearly 80,000 rides per year, Easy Lift’s Dial-A-Ride helps people who otherwise cannot get around to make it to health-care appointments and beyond. For $3.50 per ride, anyone who is otherwise unable to use public transportation for either mental or physical reasons can get a safe and friendly ride anywhere in Santa Barbara County.
“People primarily start using our service to access health-care appointments and fill pharmacy prescriptions, and then once they get comfortable with us, they start venturing out and using us for other things,” said the nonprofit’s executive director, Ernesto Paredes. He notes that some of the most popular Dial-A-Ride destinations are the farmers’ market, UCSB’s Arts & Lectures events, and senior centers.
“We don’t prioritize our rides based on where you’re going — you can use us for anything,” said Paredes. “A ride to the theater is just as important as going to the doctor because getting out of the house to do quality-of-life activities is internal medicine.”
Because Dial-A-Ride drivers help passengers in and out of the vehicle, often walking them to the door of wherever they are going, it takes a huge weight off the shoulders of family members or caretakers. “People can rest assured knowing that their mom or dad is going to be able to get to where they need to go so they don’t need to take off work to do it themselves,” explained Paredes.
“Some of our drivers have been with us since the ’90s, and they really get to know the passengers and form relationships with them,” said Paredes. Driver Al Falcon, 71, for example, is getting ready to celebrate 20 years with the company. “I like to talk to the passengers and try to find out some things about them,” said Falcon. “Working with the handicapped and disabled is something I never did before, and I’ve learned that they are just like everybody else …. I learn a lot from them.”
Growing up in Santa Barbara, Falcon said he runs into people he knew when he was a child and hasn’t seen in years. “I like to just check in on everyone, say hi, see how they’re doing because I know some people don’t have any visitors,” he said.