TORONTO — Mort Weisberg, supervisor of Circle of Care’s transportation services department, wants to share a well-kept secret.
For almost nine years, the agency has been transporting seniors to appointments, grocery stores and social engagements for a nominal round trip fee.
The program started in 2000 with one vehicle and one part-time driver doing 40 rides a month, he said, and has grown to include seven vehicles, with two on order, and 11 drivers doing 1,500 rides monthly.
“We still have capacity for more passengers. I don’t want to keep this service a secret,” said Weisberg, a retired advertising executive who was a driver himself for two years before taking on his present position.
He said drivers can pick up passengers anywhere in the service’s catchment area – Centre Street in the north to St. Clair Avenue in the south, and Dufferin Street in the west to Bayview Avenue in the east. It is a two-zone service, with Sheppard Avenue being the dividing line.
The price for the service is $10 for a home-to-home round trip for one zone, and $15 for a round trip through two zones, which “lies somewhere between a taxi and Wheel-Trans, but many people are not eligible for Wheel-Trans because they need to prove a disability. ”
The exception, Weisberg said, is that the service includes trips to North York General Hospital at Leslie Street and Sheppard, which is outside the catchment area. “We stress medical appointments – they are working towards a downtown hospital run – and we want to make it easy for seniors to have easy access to their doctors.”
People in their 50s who have a disability may be considered, he said.
Weisberg said the service provides more than a ride. “The drivers are all ‘junior seniors,’ and we pick up passengers in our brand-new vans and create a social environment for them. We also load their groceries onto the van and then into their homes. Passengers have praised our drivers and called us their lifeline. They’re able to maintain some independence, and they don’t have to depend on their family.”
Weisberg, who came to Circle of Care two weeks after he retired from advertising, said that he’s never felt so good about working with people. “It is a treat for me to come to work.”
Passengers need good cognitive skills, he said, and the vans are not wheelchair accessible.
The service is available Monday to Thursday from 9:15 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Friday until 1 p.m. Rides can be booked up to three weeks in advance for medical appointments, and passengers can call for a ride at the last minute, he said. “Chances are we will be able to take them. There is no penalty for cancelling, so spots open up.”
There is typically a three-day waiting period to sign up for the service. For information, call 416-635-2860.