The free pilot transportation program "Beyond the Borders Connector" has been running in rural parts of Pierce County including Sumner and Bonney Lake for about a month, and as with anything new, it takes a while for residents to become familiarized with it.
And it was why Marge Tully, of Pierce County Community Connections and Sumner Councilwoman Nancy Dumas accompanied a group of seniors on a one hour demo ride Thursday afternoon beginning and ending at the Sumner Senior Center to show how to go about using the service.
The women plan to continue to do more outreach for the program because rider feedback is vital to its longevity and success. Tully stressed the 'pilot' portion of the program, lasting through June, is truly a test phase. Organizers based the service route on previous Pierce Transit bus lines but need riders to tell them what works, what doesn't, where the route should extend to, where it isn't needed and more.
Funding beyond the end of the test phase in June has come through as well, Tully said on Thursday, but how that money is divided between the various other rural Pierce County routes remains to be seen. More riders and more feedback means a better service tailored to help the greatest number of people.
Harriet Johnson took the tour because she says she's been stranded in Sumner since losing bus service. She moved to Sumner from Seattle with the understanding she could still get around on public transportation and live a mostly independent life, she said. Since Pierce Transit stopped running in Sumner, Johnson said she's had to rely more heavily on family members and feels bad about imposing on them. This service gives her back her freedom, she said.
While we were stopped at the Puyallup Safeway, Margaret Armit hopped on. Armit has been riding the connector since it began in early March and said it's an easy program to use and she enjoys everything from the planned routes to the friendliness of the shuttle drivers.
Johnson and Armit speak to Patch in the video clip attached.
The service was , said Dumas, but leaders are beginning to work with the Sumner School District to give students ages 12 to 17 a chance to use the service as well outside of school activities, and particularly to get them to job locations where they'd otherwise be stranded.
More details about routes, stops and schedules are posted online at www.piercecountywa.org/cc and attached with this story. All riders must complete an eligibility screening to take advantage of the service. There is no restriction to the number of times a rider can use the Connector. For more information and to register, residents should call 2-1-1 or 1-800-572-4357.