It's been more than 18 months since Rubina Khan's husband sold her car. The 51-year-old La Cañada mom and grandmother had been told by doctors that she shouldn't drive anymore. Health reasons kept her from being safe behind the wheel, she said.
“It was difficult, but safety always has to come first,” she added.
Khan said she initially became depressed about being homebound. She was unable to get out of the house on her own, or drive down the hill from her Flintridge mountaintop home. “I didn't want to be a burden to anyone. And, even though my husband works from home, I can't ask him to drive me all of the time. And cabs are so expensive,” she added.
It was during that time of depression that a friend told her she needed to “straighten out” her life. That same friend also told her about Dial-A-Ride, a service that provides transportation for seniors — age 60 and older — as well as for disabled residents of any age.
Dial-A-Ride is funded by the city of La Cañada, through a contract with the city of Glendale. The contract fee fluctuates based on ridership, but costs La Cañada about $2,200 per month and is paid for through proposition A transit funding, an increment of the gasoline tax earmarked for transportation, said Carl Alameda, management analyst for the city of La Cañada Flintridge.
Potential riders fill out an application with the city of La Cañada and the information is passed along to the city of Glendale's transportation department. As of last year, between 400 and 500 seniors and disabled residents were taking advantage of the Dial-A-Ride service, Alameda added.
“It's a great service and a lot of people here do use it,” he said, adding that he has very rarely received any complaints about the service or its breadth of service area.
The free transportation service is available from La Cañada to riders' appointments within the cities of La Cañada, Glendale, La Crescenta, Montrose, and the portion of Pasadena west of Lake Avenue. Riders must call ahead to schedule a ride at least 24 hours in advance and not more than two weeks ahead of time. A guest is allowed to travel with the registered rider, in order to assist the senior or disabled person, so long as Dial-A-Ride has been notified of the additional passenger in advance.
“Dial-A-Ride has been a blessing,” Khan said.
She uses the service on an almost daily basis, for medical appointments as well as to ride to the YMCA, where she enjoys yoga classes.
The couple, originally from Pakistan, moved to La Cañada from Texas about 20 years ago. Their adult children, Ayesha, Ali, and Umar attended La Cañada schools. Now Ayesha and Ali are married and Umar is in college.
After more than two years of living in their current home, Khan and her husband, Rafi, are looking to sell it, when the real estate market allows, in order to move nearer to grocery stores and other services.
Dial-A-Ride allows Rubina Khan to remain active in the community, despite her health problems. “I'm just so grateful to the city of La Cañada for providing Dial-A-Ride,” she said. “When we moved up here to our home we thought it was so beautiful, but I never knew I'd be up on the mountain, unable to drive.”
The drivers are safe, friendly and helpful, and about 80 percent punctual, she said. “The other 20 percent — what do you do? Beggars can't be choosers,” she added, with a smile.
For more information on Dial-A-Ride services, call the city of La Cañada Flintridge at (818) 790-8880.