Senior car service heads to JP

A low-cost private taxi service for seniors and people who are visually impaired is aiming to serve JP by December, and may even be based here.

“We’re really looking forward to serving Jamaica Plain and connected areas of Boston,” said Jean Patel Bushnell, executive director of the nonprofit ITNGreaterBoston, which will operate the service.

Unlike the MBTA’s RIDE and the city’s Senior Shuttle, ITNGreaterBoston’s car service will be available at any time for any type of trip.

“It’s addressing such a huge need that has festered for years,” said Dale Mitchell, executive director of the JP-based elder services agency Ethos, who is on ITNGreaterBoston’s board. It is possible that the service will operate locally from Ethos’ 555 Amory St. building, he said.

ITNGreaterBoston is an affiliate of Maine-based ITNAmerica. “ITN” stands for “Independent Transportation Network.” ITNAmerica was founded several years ago by Katherine Freund, whose young son was badly injured by a senior driver. She realized that seniors often drive themselves, even when they shouldn’t, because of the lack of good transportation alternatives. ITNAmerica now has affiliates in 14 states.

The car service uses both volunteer and professional drivers in unmarked cars. The drivers escort the riders to and from the door of their pick-up and drop-off spots. Drivers are screened for criminal records.

Riders pay an annual membership fee and a per-ride fee. The annual fee, according to Patel Bushnell, is $60 a year for individuals and $100 a year for families. The per-ride fee in Boston is still being figured out, she said, but a typical estimate is about $12 for a five-mile ride. That would be far cheaper than Boston taxi rates.

There would be discounts for shared rides, and family members who serve as volunteer drivers can earn ride credits.

While ITNGreaterBoston aims to eventually cover the entire area, it is starting in western Boston and suburbs along Route 9 out to Framingham. It will have two branch offices: one in Boston and one in Framingham.

The organization has already started holding informational meetings for seniors at local health centers. The service is receiving basic funding from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation and the MetroWest Health Foundation, according to Patel Bushnell.

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