TAMPA, Fla. - Warren Saunderson has driven for the big ride-sharing companies, but this job is different.
"We’re giving a ride to people who need a ride versus people who just want a ride," says Saunderson.
He drives for TD Tampa Bay, a new service for the transportation disadvantaged, like Paulina Reyes, who has Cerebral Palsy.
"The drivers that I have had, I feel comfortable with," she says. "They help me door-to-door."
Reyes, who is an administrative assistant, can get rides to work, doctor appointments, or to even go out on weekends.
Qualified participants pay a $6 flat fee for a ride anywhere in the Tampa Bay region, serving Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas counties. The service is provided by the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA) using grant money from the state.
People may qualify due to disability, age, or income. Florida statutes define "transportation disadvantaged" as a person "who because of physical or mental disability, income status, or age are unable to transport themselves or to purchase transportation and are, therefore, dependent upon others to obtain access to health care, employment, education, shopping, social activities, or other life-sustaining activities."
Often these people have trouble making it to a bus stop, and bus schedules may not align with doctor appointments.
"You tell me what time you need to be picked up and we get there usually 15 minutes before," says Saunderson.
Reyes says it’s a good fit for her and she likes being able to choose her favorite drivers.
"I like to get to know my drivers and become friends with them," she said.
Anyone in the Tampa Bay region can qualify for TD Tampa Bay, but an application is required. To apply, visit TDTampaBay.com.