pnms-itnportland-123108 Transportation alternative ITN helps those who have outlived the car culture

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PORTLAND — As Didi Stockly pushes Harriet Tibbals’ shopping cart full of groceries to Stockly’s brown Toyota Prius, she asks the older woman about her day. In the car, the two chat easily, like old friends.
After Stockly carries the grocery bags to Tibbals’ front door, Tibbals bids Stockly a fond goodbye.
“I’ll tell ya,” Tibbals said last Friday, “I don’t know what I’d do without ITN.”
Tibbals, 77, is a resident of Portland who uses the Independent Transportation Network and its volunteer drivers like Stockly every week to get groceries at Hannaford Bros. on Forest Avenue and to have her hair done at Hair Designer.
ITN is a transportation service that provides car rides at a reduced rate throughout 12 greater Portland communities to anyone over age 65 or any adult with a visual impairment.
Tibbals stopped driving
and relied on her brother for rides after she was in a car accident 25 years ago. After her brother died a few years ago, she was
stranded. She doesn’t like getting into cabs by herself.
“I don’t
always have the right money or the exact change,” she said.
transportation wasn’t an option, either. “I have trouble getting
up and on the bus,” Tibbals said. “My balance is bad. I don’t dare go out without my
After hearing about ITN from a relative, she signed up. As a member, she deposits money into an an ITN Personal Transportation Account and receives a balance statement at
the end of the month.
ITN is the brainchild of Katherine Freund of Westbrook. Nearly 20 years ago, Freund was getting her master’s degree in public policy at USM’s Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service when her then 3-year-old son was hit by a car driven by an 84-year-old man with
Her response was unexpected and inspired. She saw the accident as part
of a larger transportation problem and was determined to find a way to
address it.
She found the options available to seniors sorely lacking.
“Our current transportation system is one that older people have lived
beyond,” Freund said. “By the age of 75, crash risks and injury
rates increase significantly. By the time you are in your 80s, driving is a high-risk activity.”
Freund established ITN Portland 13 years ago, with the hope of taking the model nationwide. ITN Portland has grown to more than 1,000 members and  provided more than 16,000 rides last year. ITN America was launched in 2003 and has been well received in 11 communities throughout the country.
A key component of Freund’s plan was to establish ITN as a non-profit, with the mission of “providing dignified transportation for seniors.” She said she wanted to make sure
that the goal was personal service and peace of mind.
“For ITN,
our bottom line is safe, happy older people, not dollars” Freund said.

But in order to keep the doors open and the rates affordable, ITN has to rely heavily on
volunteer drivers.
Stockly, a 73-year-old retired homemaker from Falmouth, has been volunteering twice a week as a driver for ITN for nearly a decade. She receives ride credits that she can either save for
her own future use or donate to a Road Scholarship Program.
She said she enjoys her time volunteering for ITN, and often has Tibbals as a passenger.
“I meet the nicest people doing this,” Stockly said. “I haven’t met a bad apple yet.”

Heather Gunther can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 115 or hgunther@theforecaster.net.


FYI: ITN has partnered with Liberty Mutual to create a Web site, libertymutual.com/seniordriving,that offers tips for senior drivers and advice on talking with aging parents about transportation options.

pnms-itnportland-123108.jpgIndependent Transportation Network driver DiDi Stockly, left, gathers Harriet Tibbals grocery bags after driving her home from a shopping trip.