Age hasn’t slowed down Susan Steyers mother, Ann Hust. At 90 years old, Hust visits the senior center in Madison Heights daily to socialize with her friends and participate in activities. However, getting there became a challenge for her family who needed to drive her. With a job and responsibilities of her own at her home in Sterling Heights, the trek to drop her mom in Madison Heights was inconvenient. Then Steyers discovered the SMART Connector Service, and it has allowed Hust to keep her independence and Steyers knows her mother is safe while traveling.
“She likes to go to the center every day because, for her, it’s a social outlet. She has friends there. If she doesn’t come on a certain day they even get worried,” Steyer says.
Growing up, Steyer’s family often used public transportation to get around, so the concept of using the bus wasn’t unfamiliar. After her mom stopped driving, Steyer says she used SMART’s Fixed Route bus service to get around town. With transfers and multiple buses to get to the senior center, the route was becoming difficult for her aging mother. Due to her age and mobility issues, Steyer found Hust qualified to use the ADA Paratransit Service. It’s door-to-door service that accommodates her mother’s needs.
“My mom has a standing schedule with the bus. They pick her up at my house every day anywhere between 8:40 and 9:10 a.m. and drop her off between 2:30 and 3 p.m.,” Steyer says, though she adds she can make changes to the schedule if needed.
Hust has fallen a few times and uses a walker to get around. The SMART Connector uses a special ramp to help Hust get on and off the bus with her walker, and it’s right at the end of her driveway. “All I have to do is walk her out there. She sits in the living room and tells me when the bus has arrived and I take her out to it,” Steyer says.
Through the ADA Paratransit Service, the drivers can provide arm guidance for unsteady passengers and even push wheelchairs to the bus, which is equipped with a lift to get them in and out.
Even the cost of riding the bus every day is cheaper than having her or one of her children make the 20-mile round-trip drive to the senior center twice a day, Steyer adds.
For Georgia Stergiou’s mother, Esther Stergiou, the SMART Connector Service is literally a lifeline as she takes it three times a week to a dialysis center in Eastpointe. Her mother uses a wheelchair and the bus driver helps her from door-to-door.
“The bus driver comes up to the door and takes her down the ramp and onto the bus. Then the driver helps her into and out of the dialysis center,” Stergiou says. “Everyone involved is very nice to her.”
Esther has been using the SMART Connector service for two years. Even when she moved from St. Clair Shores to Hazel Park, Georgia says it was easy to coordinate the Connector service. Her mother can use it to get to other places as well if she needs, like grocery stores and even the mall.
“For her, it allows her to be independent. It gets her where she needs to go and it is convenient for me as I work and have to go on with my life as well,” Georgia adds. “These older people depend on the Connector Service and they deserve it.”
About the connector service
SMART offers two types of small bus services for seniors and the disabled – Connector Service and ADA Paratransit service. Connector is an advanced reservation, curb-to-curb service for those who are over 65 or persons with a disability. Rides are on a first-come, first-served basis. SMART recommends a six-day notice for medical appointments and two-day notice for other trips. The buses travel within a 10-mile radius of a designated service area.
ADA Paratransit Service is an advanced reservation, curb-to-curb service that is provided for people who are unable to use SMART’s Fixed Route bus service because of a disability. In order to use this service you must be ADA certified. ADA certification requires an application process, which is available for download online. An ADA rider is permitted one personal care attendant at no additional cost and may request other assistance. ADA fares are $3 each way.
Connector and ADA rides can be scheduled through Customer Service by calling 866-962-5515. Press 1 for Connector and 1 again for reservations. An agent can assist with the booking process. Reservations can also be made online by registering through smartbus.org/myconnector.
For more information on SMART Bus and the SMART Connector Service, visit smartbus.org.