Lyfting The Community

Updated November 2019
Since 2018, United Way for Greater Austin has partnered with Lyft in a variety of ways to support the transportation needs of our 2-1-1 callers. This post may no longer accurately reflect our current partnership with Lyft. Please call 2-1-1 for the most up-to-date information.

2-1-1 is Austin’s front door to community resources. United Way for Greater Austin’s call specialists connect people in need with the services that can help – health care, food, housing, counseling, substance abuse services, job training, services for older adults and veterans, transportation and more.

Cities are changing. Because of this, individuals and families with low-income tend to live outside of the urban core, away from essential services. Consequently, access to transportation for vital services is now an even greater challenge. For example, an older adult living outside of the city in need of dialysis has no way to get to her appointment. An unemployed father does not transportation to get to a job interview. 2-1-1 call specialists help callers navigate the complex, and often times confusing, social services system, especially when it comes to qualifying for transportation services.

“The Lyft calls I take are distinct. Some of the individuals calling are not disabled enough to qualify for special transportation or they are not old enough. They are caught in the middle,” 2-1-1 Call Specialist Arnoldo Longoria said. “Some of their appointments are really far away, where the bus system wouldn’t be helpful and because of barriers like that, they are more likely to cancel a medical appointment because it is too far or it takes up too much time in their day. I think this program is filling a gap.”

Lyft recognized that there is unmet transportation need for many Americans and has partnered with United Way Worldwide to provide free transportation in their 12 most saturated markets, including Austin. This is an attempt to meet healthcare, employment, veteran and disaster transportation needs. So far, here in Austin, our 2-1-1 Navigation Center has scheduled more than 1,600 rides to help callers get to medical appointments and employment services.

“There are agencies that help with transportation for elderly individuals (60-65+) or if you have Medicaid you can qualify for certain transportation programs,” Chelsea Garrett, 2-1-1 Manager said. “But if you don’t fall within those specific categories, it’s really an age range, and you don’t have a disability that qualifies you for Medicaid, then there is really isn’t any resources available for you.”

In 2017, United Way fielded more than 5,000 transportation-related calls, 423 of which were from veterans and 1,629 involved medical transportation. When the pilot began in early June of this year, Lyft pledge to provide 10,000 free rides over the course of a six-month period to 12 test markets. To learn about the program in more detail

As of August 9, 2,600 rides were scheduled through the pilot in total 12,00 of which came from the Austin Market, clearly highlighting the unmet transportation needs that disproportionally affect our area.

To date, the average cost of one-way rides 2-1-1 has scheduled through the pilot is $17.34. While that may not seem like a lot of money to some of us, for individuals experiencing poverty even bus fare can be a stretch for their budget.

Overall Austin is leading the 12 markets in the number of scheduled calls and completed rides and also has a low no-show rate of 12 percent. This pilot is filling a large and important unmet need in our community and without the partnership between Lyft and United Way Worldwide many more individuals would be without transportation.

“Everyone has been really appreciative of this program and type of assistance so far,” Parker Wright, 2-1-1 Call Specialist said. “One woman needed to get to dialysis and we were able to get her set up for a Lyft ride once a week for several weeks and she has already been using it.”

Read below for an example
of the type of needs being met:

A caller shared struggles she’s had with transportation and getting to her many medical appointments. This woman usually has to visit doctors and specialists at least three times a week. Her main problem is where she lives geographically, compared to her appointments. She lives on the outskirts of Austin in a trailer park and the bus does not come near where she lives, which makes it very hard for her to get around. She has friends and relatives, but they work so she is not able to rely on them for transportation. Because of this, she regularly misses her appointments and ends up having to pay the co-pay for missing and canceling.

In her words, “the Lyft program is a tremendous support for me because I have a lot of appointments. There are times when I really have a hard time getting around but with you all it is so nice and easy and I’m very grateful for that. Because of this program, I’ve been able to get to a lot more of my appointments than I used to be able to. Thank you.”

In the three months, the pilot has been running, it has already done so much good for hundreds of individuals like the one above. Cities are changing and new needs are emerging every day, but the 2-1-1 Navigation Center, with the help of Lyft, is working hard to meet the unmet needs of individuals in our community. To learn more about the need in Austin click here or if you or someone you know is in need of help call 2-1-1 or visit our database here.

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