While it has primarily served as a transporter of people in Dublin, SHARE -- a transportation solutions company headquartered in Columbus -- has of late been transporting food.
Since January, SHARE has partnered with the city of Dublin to provide transportation to seniors, founder and CEO Ryan McManus said. The business first offered a circulator route with a fixed schedule to provide shopping opportunities for six senior-living communities. It shifted from there to provide pre-booked trips for those residents, as well as anyone in Dublin age 55 or older.
But around mid-March, during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, many people SHARE was serving weren't allowed to leave their senior-living communities, McManus said.
That served as a signal to the company, he said.
"How do we take what we're good at and then apply it to this new problem?" McManus said. "We had to get things to people."
The concept wasn't an unfamiliar one for the business.
Although it is a small part of its business, SHARE has provided prescription delivery and some food delivery beyond its partnership with Dublin, McManus said. It was something the business had done for about a year prior to the pandemic, he said.
But when SHARE officials realized the service could no longer transport people as much as it had before, it worked with Dublin to get approval to deliver food, McManus said.
Prior to the pandemic, SHARE had taken people to the Dublin Food Pantry. Now it delivers items from the pantry to people.
SHARE also delivers groceries to those age 55 and older who need them, he said.
While SHARE has pivoted to deliver food, it hasn't abandoned transporting people.
Part of SHARE's service in Dublin includes providing the last leg of transportation for people from the end of a public-transit route to a rider's place of business in the city, McManus said. Called the "last mile," this distance is often one to five miles, he said.
During the pandemic, SHARE has provided this service in areas where Central Ohio Transit Authority services have been reduced, picking up people near the bus stop closest to their homes and taking them the whole distance to their workplaces, instead of just that "last mile," McManus said. SHARE will do this until COTA resumes service, he said.
"Transportation as a benefit is essential for access to work," he said.
The shift from delivering people to delivering food hasn't affected the city's contract with SHARE, city planner J.M. Rayburn said.
The contract is structured as a bank of hours of service, Rayburn said. The city has an allowance of 2,300 hours of service to operate the shuttles between Jan. 1 and June 30. The city is billed for hours in service, regardless of whether those hours are used to serve passengers or make deliveries, he said.
Prior to the pandemic, the senior/disabled shuttle averaged 200 hours of service each month, Rayburn said. In April, it operated for just 9.5 hours, delivering food and essential goods to the city's most vulnerable residents, he said.
The existing six-month contract with SHARE is for $184,000, Rayburn said. Before the pandemic, the cost to operate the senior/disabled shuttle averaged $16,000 per month.
Last month, the cost to provide all deliveries by SHARE totaled $737, he said.
Dublin City Council has committed $250,000 per year to support mobility initiatives, Rayburn said. This funding is supplemented with grants from the Federal Transit Administration, which is administered by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. Dublin was awarded $50,000 in FTA funds this year in support of the shuttle, he said.
The grant money is also supporting the delivery of food during the pandemic, Rayburn said.