I have never been to any of your cultural events, small restaurants, craft fairs, films, etc. You name it, I haven't been there. Ditto for places and events in Asheville Citizen-Time’s The Scene, or anything in the Mountain Xpress’ Go Local Guide.
I have lived in Asheville for just over a year. Unfortunately, I can only travel by Mountain Mobility, and it doesn’t go anywhere except big-box stores, pharmacies (by special arrangement in advance) and medical appointments.
In the past, I have done many years of volunteer work. Mountain Mobility doesn’t go there either, though I would like to do that again.
Users of Mountain Mobility are not all seriously disabled. We are mostly retired, older people with a lot of time on our hands.
We would like to patronize small businesses, bakeries, Pigsah Market, etc. We would also be willing to do volunteer work. The list of what we can’t do is greater than what we can, because of the limitations of Mountain Mobility. I am heartsick at the waste of my time, which could be put to good use — and at how little of Asheville I have seen in the last year — except from the window of a van.
I don't know how many people Mountain Mobility transports each day, but there are many vans full, making dozens of trips. We all want to do more.
Maybe local businesses can put pressure on Mountain Mobility to change its ways. Media always want us to patronize local, but we can't.
— Marilyn Bergen
Hope Bleecker, transit program manager at Land-of-Sky Regional Council for Mountain Mobility, responds:
Thank you for your letter to the editor of the Mountain Xpress regarding Mountain Mobility, Buncombe County’s community transportation system.
Mountain Mobility has been operating in Buncombe County since 1989 and provides transportation services to older adults, persons with disabilities and limited general public transportation within the county. Last year, the service supplied 159,974 one-way trips, or an average of 597 trips per day.
Mountain Mobility’s transportation service for persons over 60 years of age, which you referenced in your letter, serves medical appointments to and from origins and destinations anywhere within Buncombe County. Due to funding limitations, older-adult transportation services are geared toward helping individuals meet their daily living needs and maintain independence.
The county applies for available federal and state public transportation grant funding, provides significant matching funds and makes every effort to maximize transportation opportunities by coordinating the use of over 20 funding sources. However, there are still limitations to the amount of funding that is available, which is part of the reason that some services may be either limited in scope or not available at all. The county does allocate some grant funds to support transportation for volunteers working with specific programs, such as the Foster Grandparent Program and Senior Companions.
The county has also provided grant and local funds to support other community transportation options. Buncombe County Council on Aging operates a “Call-A-Ride Plus” program, which assists with transportation needs through a pool of volunteer drivers. Also, Buncombe County offers an additional option for disabled persons who are unable to ride the city bus. The program is known as RIDE, (Ridership Independence for Elderly and Disabled Persons). Many Mountain Mobility riders use the RIDE program on Sundays when the buses are not operating, as well as for certain trip purposes which aren’t currently served by Mountain Mobility.
Please accept my sincere and unreserved apology for any inconveniences you may have experienced. I encourage you to please contact me directly at 828-251-6622 so that we can talk more about Mountain Mobility and other transportation options.