I have a problem with this share ride company and some of their drivers. I’m a senior citizen but still go to work Monday through Thursday. Via was created after the removal of several vital bus lines like the #4 bus going through Lafayette into Greenville serving also rides to the Newport Mall. 

I live in Lafayette and work on Ocean/Union in the senior citizen’s building of Salem Lafayette Housing. I developed arthritis in my hip, and when they came out with Via I was happy but quickly discover due to the arthritis, I couldn’t access the vehicle at all. It was too high, and it was impossible to get in. 

Well, now I had a hip replacement and still have therapy to get my movement back but can safely get into the front seat of the car. I was happy because it meant I no longer had to spend so much money on Uber or Lyft.

Recently, including today, I encountered drivers who displayed total disregard for the elderly. I ordered Via at 6:30 a.m. since there is always a bit longer wait time. The driver came quickly, and as I was headed to the curb, he zoomed by me, went around the corner and pulled over. I hollered, “Please don’t take off. I can’t walk fast,” and a passerby told him to wait, that he was at the wrong location, and I was coming. 

When I got to the car, I asked the driver to sit in the front seat, and he refused. He had opened the back door but got out of the car to come around and make sure the car door wouldn’t open. The driver spoke no English, and I repeatedly told him I do not speak Spanish. Finally, he went back around to the driver door, and I thought he was going to take off, so I sat on the step of the van. He finally called his supervisor, and I spoke to the supervisor, and he explained that the driver didn’t feel safe. I don’t know what he meant by that. I don’t think I look like an axe murderer. When I explained to the supervisor that I take Via every day to go to work and back home, and they are discriminating against the elderly, he told the driver in Spanish to give me a ride. But ultimately, they sent a different car for me, one where I could sit in front. The whole ordeal took approximately 20 minutes.

Recently, including today, I encountered drivers who displayed total disregard for the elderly.

So that brings us to this morning. The driver came within 25 minutes. From the time I ordered the vehicle, he said I couldn’t sit in the front seat because the seat belt was inoperable. He claimed that he would turn the car around, and I could get in. I didn’t trust him, so again I sat on the step of the van. Again, he called the manager, and they ordered another car. When I spoke to the manager, I told her that the driver claimed the seat belt was broken on the front seat, but when you operate a share ride, all seat belts should be in good working conditions as a passenger may have to sit in the front seat. This driver insinuated that I was faking my inability to get into the van, which was insulting as I still suffer from the after effects of my hip replacement. I would never fake anything and would rather just be able to get into the van without all the drama. 

I have also often been told to ask for a wheelchair van, but I do not have a wheelchair. I walk with a walker, and the wait time for those vans are sometimes close to an hour. 

Generally, the drivers are good and helpful, but then you get the “rotten apples” that treat people in a horrible manner. That needs to stop, and drivers should be taught to service peoples’ needs. This driver told me to take Uber, which was also insulting. Uber can charge as much as $15, and on a bad weather day I saw a charge of $31.00. I live half mile from my job. Thank you. 

Christa Atkins is the social service coordinator at the Salem-Lafayette apartments.