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DARTS service expands for Farmington

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Farmington senior citizens who cannot drive have a new option for getting around to neighboring communities, thanks to a new program offered through DARTS transportation. 

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The city of Farmington has had a partnership with DARTS since 2011. The original program, called the Gap Ridership Program, offered senior citizens, age 60 and older, a ride from their home to the nearest transit station, where they could board a bus to reach other locations in Dakota County and the metro area.

Now, those same residents can get door-to-door service to neighboring communities, for a fee, through the new Dial-A-Ride service.

DARTS representative Courtney Whited estimates there are, based on the 2010 census, approximately 358 Farmington residents age 60 and older who are non-drivers. Last year, about 78 riders used the Gap Ridership Service.

The new Dial-A-Ride program will connect Farmington with Rosemount, Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan and Lakeville.

“Any resident over 60 years will be able to ride anywhere within the six-city service area. Hair appointments, medical appointments, shopping, anything of their activities of daily living,” Whited told the Farmington City Council at the March 3 meeting.

The addition of the Dial-A-Ride program gives seniors in need of transit some options, Farmington parks and recreation director Randy Distad said. Someone in Farmington can schedule a ride, and be taken from their front door directly to their destination in one of the six cities.

“The current program can be kind of confusing for people,” Distad said, “but this new service is less confusing because it’s door-to-door.”

The Dial-A-Ride service has been available in Ramsey and Hennepin counties for a number of years, Whited said. It was extended to Dakota County after the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging allocated $63,000 to DARTS specifically for the door-to-door program, Whited said.

All six of the participating cities are contributing $5,000 to the program.

The driver from Ramsey County will be relocated to the Dakota County service line due to his experience with the Dial-A-Ride program. As part of his job, the driver is available to help riders get onto or off of the bus, and the buses equipped with wheelchair lifts.

The new program will offer rides from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Riders can make standing appointments, as well. Riders who make appointments in advance are contacted one day in advance to confirm they still need a ride.

The Dial-A-Ride service charges riders a fare of $3.50 to $7.50. The fee is based upon the individual’s monthly income.

The Dial-A-Ride service does not replace the Gap Ridership Transit service. If a person needs a ride to somewhere outside of the six-city radius, they can still use the Gap Ridership Transit program, which would take them from their home to the transit station, where they would then board a bus to their final destination.

The new Dial-A-Ride service begins for Farmington residents on March 18. To schedule a ride, call 651-234-2281.

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Michelle Leonard
Michelle Leonard started covering the Farmington community in June, 1994. Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the Farmington American Legion Auxiliary Unit 189, and acts as the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 
(651) 460-6606
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