Idyllwild has free shuttle service that began in September of this year. It is funded by a grant from the Riverside County Transportation Commission, renewable each fiscal year for a total of three years. For the grant to renew in July 2016 and 2017, the shuttle service must show ongoing and regular use.
Idyllwild is an older community. Average age within the community is 49. According to recent census data, those 70 and older comprise nearly 25 percent of the population. Transportation, especially in the winter, can prove difficult for older residents, who, if they still drive, may be unwilling to drive when it’s dark or when the weather is threatening.
That is why the local nonprofit Forest Folk obtained the grant to provide free shuttle service to residents within the Idyllwild/Pine Cove area.
The shuttle has a regular schedule and routes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Direct pick-up and drop-off at a residence can be arranged by those who might have difficulty getting to or from a designated shuttle stop.
On Tuesday and Thursday, off-Hill trips can be scheduled by special arrangement 24 hours in advance. The off-Hill trips are meant to be used for necessary appointments, such as doctor, DMV and Social Security Administration. As lead organizer Reba Coulter noted, a friend of the individual with the appointment may ride along for shopping as long as they are ready to depart when the scheduled appointment is over. Currently, Tuesday trips are to the Coachella Valley and Thursdays to Hemet.
Door-to-door pick-up and drop-off, and off-Hill trips can be arranged by contacting dispatcher Pat Ruffner 24 hours in advance at 951-292-8457. Schedule changes, primarily weather-related, will be posted on the Forest Folk website and on the Forest Folk Facebook page,www.facebook.com/IdyllwildForestFolk/?fref=ts. Forest Folk volunteer Avianna Jones updates the site to reflect shuttle schedule changes.
Although the grant became effective in July 2016, it took time to find an experienced driver with a Class B license with passenger endorsement. Forest Folk employed Robert Hinkle who used to drive for Cardiff Limousine and Transportation. Hinkle turns in daily driver’s logs, detailing routes and mileage as well as daily vehicle inspection reports that verify specific checklist requirements. During the month of September, Hinkle reported 145 hours of service and 1,493 miles driven; October, 160 hours of service and 1,280 miles driven; and in November, 148 service hours and 1,206 miles driven.
Regular shuttle pick-up stops (twice a day) are: the Pine Cove Market, Idyllwild Laundry (near Idyllwild Fire Station), Idyllwild Health Center on Lower Pine Crest, Idyllwild HELP Center on Highway 243, the Shell station on Highway 243, Harmony Monument on Village Center Drive, Strawberry Plaza Shopping Square on Village Center Drive, Fern Creek Medical Center on Upper Pine Crest andVillage Market on Highway 243. Check the Forest Folk Idyllwild Shuttle Bus schedule at http://forestfolk.org. for pickup times at each scheduled shuttle bus stop.
Coulter reported actual ridership for September as 82 on-Hill riders and 28 off-Hill; in October, 49 on-Hill and 58 off-Hill; and for November, 95 on-Hill and 41 off-Hill. Coulter noted that for special in-town events, such as the September Home Tour and Idyllwild Community Center fundraiser, the October Halloween Parade and the November Harvest Festival and Tree Lighting, the shuttle operated on weekends of the scheduled events.
The grant, which funds vehicle repairs, maintenance and fuel, and both driver and dispatcher salaries, is for $50,000 for the first year, $52,000 for the second and $55,000 for the third. It depends upon accurate record keeping, submission of those records to the county, and, most importantly, rider use.
“People are going to have to use it,” said Coulter, “that’s what will keep it going.” Coulter stressed that neither she nor co-organizer Sue Harper are salaried. They are volunteer project managers and bookkeepers.
For more information on Forest Folk and the shuttle service, visit the sites referenced earlier in the article.