Free rides available in county for anyone getting a vaccine

With more COVID vaccination sites opening through hospitals and at pharmacies, the Crawford Area Transportation Authority is offering free rides for anyone in Venango County who needs transportation to get a shot.

CATA received CARES Act funds and is using the money to cover the cost of transporting county residents, regardless of age, to receive the COVID vaccine, Bill Jones, the operations manager for CATA, said.

Jones stressed that a person must tell CATA representatives specifically they are riding the bus to be vaccinated in order to ride for free.

“Some people pay their co-pay and say they are going to the doctor or Rite Aid and on the way back say how glad they were they got vaccinated,” Jones said. “Because of HIPPA we are not going to probe or ask why someone is going to the hospital or pharmacy. We don’t know unless you tell us.”

CATA has been working with county commissioners and hospitals to coordinate rides, but with more vaccination sites being opened individuals can also call and request rides to get the vaccine, Jones said.

People who plan to use either CATA’s fixed route buses or ride share program to take them to their vaccination appointment must call in advance to schedule a ride, Jones said.

“Let us know a couple of days to two weeks in advance,” Jones said.

He added that it is important for people to be flexible when using the shared ride service because the small buses may pick up multiple people on a trip.

In addition to rides to get vaccinated, other free or reduced cost ride programs are available to people over 65 and people with disabilities in Venango and Forest counties.

Venango County

For Venango County residents 65 and over, the county can provide free unlimited medical transportation trips to in-county doctors, said Michelle DeWoody, the director of Venango County Older Adult Services.

In addition, the county will provide one free trip a week to get groceries and one social trip a month at no cost to the bank or shopping or to a nursing facility or the human services building, DeWoody said.

The rides are through CATA’s ride share program and paid for by Venango County Older Adult Services, DeWoody said.

“They would have to pay the co-pay for any trips beyond this,” DeWoody said.

Seniors pay a lower rate to ride on CATA buses because their rides are partially covered by Pennsylvania Lottery funds, Jones said. He added that CATA has also received grants that partially cover the cost of rides for people with disabilities.

To utilize the ride share service, DeWoody said people must contact Venango County Older Adult Services at (814) 432-9711 to register. Rides must be scheduled by noon on the business day before a trip, according to a CATA brochure.

To schedule a ride, people can call (814) 432-7255.

The ride share program runs Mondays through Fridays from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Forest County

In Forest County, Darian McCanna, an administrative assistant in the county’s transportation department, said residents 65 and older who need a ride to a medical appointment, shopping or basic errands can register with the transportation department.

“It’s very easy to sign them up if they aren’t already signed up,” McCanna said.

There is no cost unless the trip is more than 35 miles one way, McCanna said.

She added that the department also provides rides for people with disabilities for a small fee.

McCanna said the number of people using the services slowed during the middle of the pandemic but has picked up again.

The transportation department provides rides between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, except for holidays.

To register, county residents are asked to stop by either the transportation office at 126 Cherry St. in Marienville or the county commissioners office at the courthouse in Tionesta to fill out an application. Residents need to bring a photo ID for age verification.

More information can be found at under Departments and Transportation.

The phone number for the transportation office is (814) 927-8266 or (800) 222-1706.