Fare Free Shares Struggles, Hopes During Pandemic

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COURT HOUSE - Effective April 1, Fare Free will begin offering riders a new and more effective way to book trips.  

According to a release, beginning April 1, all riders schedule rides through the UBER App. Riders can and are encouraged to pre-register through the Uber App now and start booking trips when they need them. 

Fare Free has been providing demand response service to countywide senior citizens, disabled residents, veterans, individuals of low income, and the general public for over 45 years. The system has always required three business days' notice in order to book a trip, but that will change. 

"The services provided by Fare Free have been invaluable over the years and served the public well. However, as new technology is developed, it was time to update and improve our service to meet the needs of the users. Working with Uber has allowed us to up our game and provide the residents in Cape May County a better way to schedule rides.  

"There will no longer be the need to reserve a spot in advance. No more three-day notice; just go on the Uber App, book your ride, and go. The Uber App is free and can be uploaded on all smartphones, It couldn't be easier," explained County Commissioner E. Marie Hayes, liaison to Fare Free Transportation. 

The current system required riders to schedule their ride at least three days in advance for special appointments, such as medical and other time-sensitive engagements. The shopping trips did not require advance registration; that service will continue under the new program. However, people will be able to pre-register and shop whenever and wherever they want, as of April 1, as long as it is within the county limits. There will be no more restrictions on days or times for those trips. 

All current clients and new clients should pre-register now or anytime over the next six weeks by downloading the Uber app, or by calling the office to be pre-registered. That will save time and enable them to start booking trips April 1, at 8 a.m. 

"The reasons for this change are very simple. People do not want to wait three days to take their trips; if the doctor says they can be seen today, they should be able to go today; if someone needs milk today, they shouldn’t have to wait three days to get it," stated Daniel Mulraney, Fare Free Transportation director. 

In reviewing the operational side of the program, it was noted that Fare Free had an increasing number of cancellations and "no-show" clients and needed to identify the cause and develop a plan to correct the issue. Over a three-year span, the department averaged 14,037 cancellations per year and 3,327 no-show clients spanning 2017, 2018 and 2019. 

"We believe that the three-day advance notice caused those cancellations and no-shows. A lot can happen in three days, people decide not to go, get other transportation or change their plans They don’t always tell us when they do so," Mulraney added. 

"The costs of fuel, wear and tear on the vehicles, and the manpower associated with sending buses to locations and the client is not there are obviously detrimental to our system in many ways. Same day service will eliminate many of these issues. If someone books a trip right now, the chances of them not going are slim. We should see a dramatic reduction in cancellations and no-shows. We also anticipate an increase in ridership which will create a reduction in the cost per trip," Hayes stated. 

Diagnostic Center clients and dialysis clients will be picked up in the normal manner and will not be required to book their trips each day. Senior centers have yet to be determined as they are working with the Division of Aging and Disability Services to find the best course of action for their clients. 

The Uber App can be download from the App Store and is free. Clients who do not have smartphones or unable to access this technology are welcome to call the Fare Free office and the staff will book the trip for them, at 609-889-3700 etx. 3700. 

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