Envida, a nonprofit focused on providing transportation for older and low-income adults, individuals with disabilities and people with behavioral and mental health issues, is working to integrate a new host of drivers, fleet of vehicles and set of on-demand services after acquiring Coach Transportation, a for-profit business that drives patients to medical appointments.
Envida, which has 50 years of transportation experience in El Paso, Pueblo and Teller counties, merged with Coach Transportation recently to expand access for riders by providing more fixed bus routes and on-demand services, as well as reduced wait times.
“We’re excited about the acquisition and what it means to the community,” envida CEO Gail Nehls said. “More and more nonprofits are beginning to look at sustainable business models and this is an example of one.”
By absorbing Coach Transportation’s resources into envida, Nehls said riders will have more flexibility and options with expanded weekend hours and more on-demand rides.
To provide the ease of an on-demand model similar to that of Uber or Lyft, more resources and drivers are required, envida Director of Transportation Lawrence Frimpong said. During the pandemic, drivers were scarce and envida had to decline services because of those shortages, Nehls said.
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But the acquisition of Coach Transportation helped alleviate some of the challenges of driver shortages and envida doubled its rides to more than 4,000 in May, Frimpong said.
“Now that we have an increase in fleets, it means we have to be able to provide more service,” Frimpong said. “We have to be able to serve a lot of places.”
Envida’s routes and services focus heavily on eastern El Paso County and areas that public transportation isn’t offered. One such route is envida’s Bus 1 line that runs Monday-Thursday serving users near northern Colorado Springs, Falcon, Peyton and Calhan, running as far out as Ramah.
Robert Hudson, Bus 1’s driver, said he feels like more riders started using the route once he was hired because he was a Calhan local and that made riders feel comfortable about using the service.
One of those riders is his wife, Lorna Hudson.
Robert drove an envida bus down US 24, across bumpy dirt roads and rolled to a stop in front of one of the little ranch houses that speckle Calhan’s fields. It was his house. He stopped so Lorna could board the bus.
“I treat her no different than any other customer,” Robert said.
“That’s for sure,” Lorna said and smiled.
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Lorna used envida’s service since 2019 to get from their ranch to the Falcon Walmart and Calhan library. When she heard that the Bus 1 route driver planned to retire and envida would need a new driver, she told her husband about the opening.
“Really there’s nobody out here but me,” Robert said about the bus route.
During the pandemic, Lorna wanted to get out of the house but she was nervous to go into stores and public places. However, not many people used the bus route during the pandemic, so she felt safe onboard.
“I would just ride,” Lorna said. “It was a good way to get out of the house.”
During school vacation periods, Robert will give students rides as a part of envida’s Calhan / Eastern El Paso Connection student discount pass. Later this summer, he plans to help envida advertise and expand their services.
“We’re going to come out here to (the Falcon) Walmart have balloons – give out donuts,” Robert said. “Do something and really promote it.”
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