Five days a week, no matter the weather, Pace driver Angela Perry picks up Amanda Shalkiewicz before 8:00 a.m. and drives her to her day program for adults with cerebral palsy. It’s a short trip from Amanda’s home in Crete to the program in Tinley Park, but one that would not be possible without Will-Ride, a Dial-A-Ride service that provides transportation service to residents who do not have access to standard public transportation options.
“This program has been a lifesaver,” said Amanda’s mother Karen Shalkiewicz. Before Will-Ride, she was paying $25 a day to transport her daughter and running into barriers because her home is in Will County and the day program is in Cook County. One year she couldn’t get anyone to drive across county lines, so Amanda had to stay home, setting back her independence and education.
“It’s her right. She didn’t ask to be born disabled,” Karen Shalkiewicz said of her daughter’s access to mobility options. “We have to take care of our disabled populations and our seniors, it’s on all of us as a group.”
Will–Ride is co-sponsored by Pace and six townships in eastern Will County. Since 2014, the RTA has provided over $635,000 in operating funding to Will County through the federal Section 5310: Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Program. The RTA is accepting applications for the Section 5310 Call for Projects through April 22, 2021.
For as low as $2 per ride, Will-Ride provides service Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to residents over age 60 or people with disabilities. Residents can be picked up within the townships and taken anywhere within a ten-mile radius of the program’s service boundary, which includes crossing county boundaries or even the state line into Indiana. Pre-pandemic, Will-Ride was providing about 12,000 rides each year, said Wendie Garlich, Will County Mobility Manager.
“We are in a rural area of the county, and we do not have any fixed route bus service here, so this program is very valuable to our residents,” Garlich said. “Without it, they would not have access to get anywhere. For many, this is the only way they can get to the grocery store or a medical appointment.”
Garlich said she hopes Will-Ride can expand its hours and days of operations in the future and collaborate with other Dial-a-Ride programs in the county to provide a more seamless transportation experience for all.
Read more about programs the RTA has funded around the Chicago region through the Section 5310 program in an interactive story map.