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This is part of our Moving You blog series, which examines federally funded programs managed by the RTA that expand transportation options and access for all.

The most rewarding part of Krystal Spracklen’s job as Program Coordinator for Ride in Kane is when she helps a new rider register, because she knows how life-changing access to reliable transportation can be for the people of Kane County. 

“One of the most rewarding parts of the job is talking to people, hearing their story, getting them connected, and then seeing their registration come through,” Spracklen said. “It’s pretty funny how you feel proud of yourself that someone followed through to do what they needed to do to get a ride.” 

Spracklen has worked for Ride in Kane since its inception in 2008. The program coordinates multiple dial-a-ride services in Kane County, optimizing transportation for seniors and people with disabilities. Before Ride in Kane, various municipalities ran their own paratransit services, but the boundaries restricted travel. With Ride in Kane, eligible riders in the county can get transportation to anywhere else in the county 24/7. This year, the RTA will provide $2.66 million in federal operating funding to support Ride in Kane through the Section 5310: Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Program. 

Spracklen retired in 2020, but a little over a year later, she was asked back to help facilitate a big transition for Ride in Kane. The Association for Individual Development, a non-profit organization, has overseen the program since 2013. But at the start of 2022, Kane County took over to offer expanded capacity and greater coordination. 

“When COVID-19 hit, the Association for Individual Development had to make some choices and prioritizations based on their capacity. The RTA had always had a goal that paratransit services would transfer to the county, and it just became a really necessary transition,” said Jennifer Becker, Special Projects/Traffic Manager for the Kane County Division of Transportation. “Kane County has a huge capacity, so we’re able to bring all of our resources to this program.” 

Transportation is independence
In addition to bringing greater capacity and resources to the management of Ride in Kane, the county’s takeover in January has also allowed for a major expansion of services. For the first time, people experiencing low incomes are able to register for rides to work regardless of age or ability. A soft launch in mid-January has seen two people sign up so far, but growth is expected after more promotion ramps up. 

“We just opened up our registration process in mid-January,” Spracklen said. “We’re hoping to see more come in, and we’re trying to get the information out there with various agencies that work with individuals who are in that low-income category.” 

Spracklen met in person with the program’s first registrant, a young man who will use paratransit to get to and from an internship that he’s hoping will turn into a paid job. The second registrant needs access to a vocational program through one of the school districts in the county. 

“Transportation is independence,” Spracklen said. “When you talk to some of these people who say, ‘I don’t have anybody to pick me up,’ and you let them know there’s something out there for them, they are so happy.” 

The bulk of Ride in Kane’s current services still benefit seniors and people with disabilities, providing needed connections to medical care, grocery stores, social activities, and jobs. Dozens of people with disabilities throughout the county are now working because of their access to transportation through Ride in Kane. In the future, Becker said she hopes to be able to spearhead greater coordination for paratransit outside county lines. 

But for now, it feels good to know thousands of seniors, people with disabilities, and workers experiencing low incomes have reliable and affordable rides. 

“In the end, they get a ride 24/7 to necessary services,” Becker said. “Ride in Kane provides rides to thousands of registered riders distinctly at all times throughout Kane County. It’s become a component of life out here.” 

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