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Advocate calls on government to provide free Uber, Lyft service for seniors

ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) -- A community advocate is demanding the city, county, and state partner together to provide free Uber and Lyft rides for senior citizens. This comes as seniors face higher rent and food costs while surviving on fixed incomes.

Many neighbors living in a senior living high rise facility on North Avenue say they're barely making ends meet, living on fixed incomes, and battling inflation and disabilities.

"It's hard for me to get around in this mobile chair on MARTA because I'm always running into obstacles on the bus and a lot of the ramps won't go all the way down," said Lonnie Boswell, a disabled senior.

Seniors say free Uber and Lyft rides would help ease some of the burdens.

"All the food, everything is going up. That would be a nice thing to have," said Alton Jerome Bolton, one senior who has been affected by transit costs.

It's one of several reasons why James Davenport, a community organizer, is calling on elected officials to provide free Uber and Lyft rides for senior citizens. He said crime is another reason to provide the service.

"There are stories of women, purses being snatched, and whatever, so I just thought it was a good idea to try to keep us out of harm's way," said Davenport. "I am requesting, not only Atlanta City Council, Fulton County Commissioners, the governor, and the mayor to team up and provide free Uber and Lyft rides for seniors."

Davenport addressed the issue during the public comment portion of last Wednesday's Atlanta City Council session.

"You heard the firemen say [their] two-week take-home pay is $900. Try $900 a month. That's what I get [for] disability," he said.

Davenport acknowledged Fulton County's existing reduced fare program, but said that for many, it was not enough.

"People 55 and over, $1 per trip. You can travel nine miles anywhere you want to go, or if you're going to the hospital or pharmacy, you can go up to 15 miles," he said. "Still, that's a cost, and for most of us, that's a cost that we cannot afford."

According to some riders, Fulton County provides 16 free rides per month for senior citizens. Ladisa Onyiliogwu, the director of Fulton County Department of Senior Services, responded to the claim with a statement provided to CW69 News:

Fulton County does not provide 16 free MARTA rides. The State currently provides funding through ARC to Fulton County to support mobility options.

The Common Courtesy contract (Uber/Lyft) ensures that no participant goes over 16 trips in a month. Seniors pay a one-time $15.00 registration fee and $1 one-way (or $2 round trip). Medical trips have a limit of 40 miles (round trip) and community trips 20 miles (round trip).

However, Davenport and others are questioning the reason for seniors to pay for transportation at all.

"The governor (recently) mentioned they had about $4.4 billion in excess. Let's use some of that money," he said. "Most seniors have gone through 40-50 years in working, paying taxes. Why not put some of those tax dollars to use for senior citizens."

Later, a spokesperson for Fulton County indicated they would follow up on any statement made on behalf of the county. There has been no immediate response to the demand from officials from the city of Atlanta or the state of Georgia.

Davenport said he plans to address the Fulton County Board of Commissioners at their next scheduled meeting on Wednesday.

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