Each month, PRTC shines a light on one of our passengers to learn why
that person chooses to ride public transportation, how long he or she has
been using PRTC’s services and what we can do to improve that person’s
commute. Check out this month’s Rider Spotlight below.
"It's really a God-send. It takes so much presure off you emotionally and financially. It's one less thing to stress about."
Customer Profile - September 2014
Helen Ellis-Brown never expected to face financial hardships. She always earned a good salary, most recently as an Executive Assistant, and worked for years in Washington, D.C. and in Reston. But multiple back surgeries including several spinal fusions forced her to go on disability three years ago. Her only income now is Social Security, and there are many months when she must make hard choices in how to spend her limited funds.
In 2012, the Dumfries resident was looking for bus schedules on the PRTC website when she found information about Wheels-to-Wellness. She filled out the application and was thrilled to learn she could use taxis to get to-and-from her many medical appointments.
“It’s really a God-send. It takes so much pressure off you emotionally and financially” because participants only have a small co-pay. “It’s one less thing to stress about,” she said.
A native of England, she lived in New York for 10 years before moving to Virginia with her children about 20 years ago. Prior to enrolling in Wheels-to-Wellness, Ms. Ellis-Brown relied on family and PRTC buses to meet her travel needs, but using public transportation is difficult for her because the side-to-side motion on a train or on side-facing seats on the bus aggravates her back. When riding a PRTC bus she must use forward-facing seats even if they are in the back of the bus, which takes some effort for her to reach when using her walker.
“On a good day, I can manage but on a bad day I couldn’t do the commute,” she said.
She typically uses Wheels-to-Wellness four to eight times a month. Most of her trips are local, but if she has to see a doctor outside the local area, she tries to have one of her children drive her so her monthly transportation stipend lasts longer and her out-of-pocket costs for the ride are minimized.
“Wheels-to-Wellness really helps me a lot without me worrying about how I will get back and forth to the doctor, so I really appreciate it,” she said.
Ms. Ellis-Brown’s son and daughter also use PRTC buses; her son commutes to work with PRTC, and her daughter has used OmniLink to volunteer at Sentara Hospital and go to Potomac Mills Mall and other activities. Ms. Ellis-Brown was happy to hear that Saturday Prince William Metro Direct buses would be free through the summer of 2014 because she and her daughter have been riding the bus to visit DC on the weekends.