GREENFIELD — If it wasn’t for Hancock Area Rural Transit, Annette Nickel of Greenfield simply couldn’t get to work.
After returning to Indiana after a 20-year stay in Tennessee, Nickel’s trusty Ford Explorer gave up, leaving her with no way to get to her job at Mt. Vernon High School.
Casting about for some form of transportation, relief came from a reference to Hancock County Senior Services Inc. and the H.A.R.T. system, which provides transportation throughout the county.
“A co-worker of mine said, ‘I know of this awesome service,’ and I’ve been riding ever since January,” Nickel said.
For $3 per stop, H.A.R.T. will transport any county resident under age 60 to where they need to go.
The countywide service operates from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday with appointments scheduled according to driver availability. The fleet consists of sedans, low-floor vans and a small bus.
Cindi Martin, dispatcher for the program, said riders can purchase vouchers, or, if they ride regularly like Nickel, on a subscription basis.
“Everybody thinks of public transportation as a big IndyGo bus going down the street, but a rural system doesn’t need that,” said Linda Hart, executive director of Hancock County Senior Services. “We have what is appropriate for our community.”
For seniors, the service provides free transportation to “essential destinations” such as doctor’s appointments and medical facilities. For non-essential stops, the charge is $3.
Runs to out-of-county medical facilities can be booked at a rate of $15 each way, Hart said.
To ensure a place on the bus, however, the agency recommends calling as early as possible.
“The key is planning and calling as soon as you know about your trip,” Hart said. “The service is first come-first served, so as soon as you call, your ride is on the books. You have to plan ahead.”
The fleet is currently piloted by a crew of 16 drivers, 15 of whom are part-time. Drivers generally work three to four part-time days a week, depending on need and scheduling, Hart said.
The service is funded primarily with Indiana Department of Transportation public transit dollars, which require a 50 percent local match. The matching component is made of money from local government, United Way of Central Indiana and the Central Indiana Council on Aging.
Contributions and donations from the public play an equally important role in keeping the vehicles running, Hart said.
“If we want to continue, the community has to make it important by funding and using the program,” Hart said.
For Nickel, it’s an easy call.
“I love these people,” she said as she boarded the van to work. “This is a great group. Don’t think you’re going to get rid of me. I’ll be riding until I’m fortunate enough to get a vehicle.”
For more information or to book a HART ride, call (317) 462-1103.
GET A RIDE
Hancock Area Rural Transit offers transportation for any county resident. Pickup is by appointment only, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information or to book a H.A.R.T. ride, call (317) 462-1103.