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Liberty: Big need for getting around
May 20, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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Reliable transportation can be a challenge in rural areas, especially when there’s no car, or no access to one. Liberty Transportation wants to change that.

Liberty Transportation’s Valerie Lefler addressed the Scotts Bluff County Commissioners at their May 16 (Monday) meeting about their private-public partnership for providing transportation for those who need it.

“Liberty is a transportation technology and service company,” Lefler told board members. “Our primary goal is improving mobility for people without vehicle access in rural areas. The service also provides jobs in rural areas.”

Liberty and the Scotts Bluff County Public Transportation would work together to provide rides during hours in the mornings, evenings, and weekends, when the county service isn’t offered, and residents most need it.

Lefler said Liberty is a “ride aggregator,” which means matching up rides for those who need transportation. It might be for work, medical appointments, or even long distance trips – for example, someone needing to visit a healthcare specialist in another nearby city. “We look at all the different options that are available for individuals,” she said. “When services are still needed, we provide that gap coverage and have a contractor provide that service.”

She emphasized Liberty is a public-private partnership and doesn’t intend to replace public transportation, but will complement the already available options.

“Customer service and taking care of our clients is our top priority,” Lefler said. “Our drivers are from the local community and have been thoroughly screened. Drivers use their own vehicles and set their own schedules as to when they’re available and what their service area will be.”

Lefler said the company has been contacted by some of the larger insurance companies about partnering with them. The goal is to connect managed care facilities, physician offices, nursing homes, and dentists with public transportation for patients and clients.

“We’ll be doing a lot of marketing to make people aware of the service,” Lefler said. “This will also make people more aware of the county’s public transportation.”

She said Liberty’s focus is on individual care and safety. Also, rides can be booked ahead of time. That way, drivers can plan their schedules ahead of time.

Liberty plans to open a local office by fall. However, the Nebraska Public Service Commission is now in the process of approving the plan.

“We’re getting pressure to provide transportation on weekends, nights, before 7 a.m. and after 4 p.m.,” said Commissioner Ken Meyer. “We just don’t have the funds to do it at the county level. I think this is an interesting idea and is something the community needs.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration has funded the initial phase of the project, while the Small Business Administration has provided additional funding to speed up business across the state. Liberty will meet with potential venture capital partners this summer.

Concurrently, Liberty is working with the Center for Independent Living near Corpus Christi, Texas, to begin service this fall.

Lefler, who is from Lincoln, said that while she was at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, they conducted several meetings across the state to gauge interest in public transportation.

“Scotts Bluff County was really involved and was savvy about the need for public transportation,” she said. “This was the number one place we decided to go when we launched this project.”
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