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To get where you need to go, try FlexRide

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On Mondays, Patricia Murphy catches a Route 8 bus from Thornton to Broomfield, where her granddaughter Madeline attends preschool at the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library. Around 9:30 a.m., a FlexRide shuttle stops at Madeline’s house and drops them off at the library 15 minutes later. At 11:40 a.m., they catch another FlexRide shuttle back to the child’s home.

Murphy uses the FlexRide subscription option – allowing people to book a recurring ride at the same day, time and location – on the days she takes Madeline to preschool. On other days of the week, Murphy might book a FlexRide to take a trip to the grocery store or complete other errands. Whatever the trip is, she said, people are always curious about the service, and she is always happy to inform them.

“They see me get off the (FlexRide) shuttle and they ask, ‘How do you qualify for that?’” Murphy said. “I tell them, ‘It’s easy. You just go online, make your reservation, they pick you up at your door and they take you wherever you need to go.’”

FlexRide – formerly known as Call-n-Ride – is RTD’s shared-ride bus service, available for anyone to connect to other RTD bus or train services. Riders can also use FlexRide to get direct access to schools, businesses or other amenities in communities without a fixed bus route. FlexRide vehicles have space for 14 passengers, including two passengers with mobility devices, and two bicycles. Riders can board a FlexRide vehicle at designated stops or, upon making arrangements, from their own homes.

RTD made some important changes to the service in January to better reflect the way riders use it. The name change, from Call-n-Ride to FlexRide, is notable. In addition, the new FlexRide reservation platform enables quick access to online booking from a mobile device. One big change: Advance booking time has been reduced from an hour to 10 minutes – meaning riders can now book as little as 10 minutes in advance, truly putting the “flex” in FlexRide.

For Taylor Barnes of Englewood, FlexRide is an essential service. When Barnes lost her vision in 2012, she had to give up driving and start taking light rail to work. A coworker told her about FlexRide, and she now uses the service to get to and from her light rail station every day.

“I am just so grateful for the service,” she said. “For people who can’t afford to drive or are unable to drive and who don’t always need Access-A-Ride (RTD’s local bus for people with disabilities), FlexRide is critical.”

Not only has Barnes maintained some degree of independence thanks to FlexRide, she has also formed close relationships with the shuttle operators who drive her to her station.

“The drivers know me by name and look out for me,” she said. “They ask each other if they’ve seen me. I give them Christmas presents every year. When I moved from Dry Creek to Orchard” – one FlexRide service area to another – “I hugged my old drivers goodbye.”

Patricia Murphy praises the operators of FlexRide as well.

“They’re always polite and friendly,” she said. “When I have Madeline with me, they help me with her stroller. They make sure I get to my bus stop right on time, or if we’re running ahead of schedule, they make sure to drop me off at a bus stop with a shelter.”

Barnes recognizes that the service is unique. “When I tell my friends I can schedule a shuttle to pick me up and take me to my station,” she said, “they can’t believe it.”

Both Murphy and Barnes want more people to know about what a useful and convenient service FlexRide is.

“You can fit about a week’s worth of groceries onto the shuttle,” Barnes said. “If you need a round trip, they’ll pick you up, drop you off, pick you up again and take you home. Kids ride for free.

“It sure is cheaper and easier than driving.”