Dakota County, Lyft partner to help people with disabilities get to work

When most of us order rides on apps like Lyft, we’re probably doing it for the added convenience and we’re probably only doing it once in a while. But, for a group of people in Dakota County, it’s opening up a whole new world. 

It’s a lesson in travel being taught in Dakota County.

“It allows them to get out and have a job and get there just like anyone else would get to their job,” said Brittany Hoff, Dakota County travel trainer.

This spring, the county kicked off a program years in the making called Lyft Pilot. They teamed up with the rideshare company in a new way to help those with disabilities get to and from work.

“Historically, folks with disabilities have had a lot of barriers when it comes to getting work, so when we looked at what is preventing folks from getting jobs, one thing that came out of that was that transportation was a barrier,” said Robyn Bernardy, transportation coordinator for Dakota County.

With the program, there are no special cars involved, and the Lyft drivers don’t know anything is different. “The riders love that aspect of it that the drivers don’t know they’re someone with a disability and that this is paid for by the county. They are just another rider.”

It’s been a game changer for Merrilynn Miller.

“It’s been really great, I’m so fortunate to have it,” she said.

She was taking public transportation to her job, but found it wasn’t helping her get where she needed to go on time.

“It would be like two hours before I’d get home, and I’m less than five minutes away,” Miller added.

Now, Miller has more flexibility and independence and since she's started using Lyft, she's never looked back.

“It’s a great program, I’m just so blessed,” Miller says.

The riders are also taught to think about their safety, like making sure the license plate matches the Lyft driver and making sure they’re the driver who that's supposed to be picking them up.