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N4 Connect: Helping older adults and people with disabilities access affordable transportation (sponsored)


Reno resident Renate Wright is trying to gently coax her adorable German Shepherd/Shar-Pei mix, Zoey, to learn some important lessons.

“Zoey is an emotional support dog for me,” says Wright, who is on the autism spectrum and has had Zoey for a little over a year. “I’m trying to get some lessons to teach her to be more of a service dog.”

But because she’s not a certified service dog and therefore can’t use public transportation — and because Renate doesn’t have a car of her own — she turned to the resources at the Neighbor Network of Northern Nevada (N4) to get Zoey to her doggie school. N4 considers itself a village connecting Northern Nevadans for inclusive, community-based service and affordable transportation. And one way that affordable transportation comes in is through a collaboration with Lyft called N4 Connect

Zoey the dog.

“Unfortunately for our older populations and those with disabilities, transportation can be difficult,” says N4 Founder and Executive Director Amy Dewitt-Smith. “N4 Connect ensures people have the opportunity to get where they need to go to be connected with their community and live meaningful lives.”

Using N4 Connect, Wright can take Zoey to Pet Play House to get her much-needed lessons using half-off passes from Lyft.

“Before, I had to search around for a ride,” she explains. “So this is really nice.”

Plus, other recent events have left Wright more in need of efficient, reliable transportation.

“Mom just passed away, so sometimes it’s nice that I can take Lyft home and not have to ask my brother or dad for a ride home,” she says.

Half-price transportation, improved quality of life

N4 Connect currently offers older adults (60+) and people with disabilities 18 years and older to buy up to $160 of Lyft credits every month for $80. Lyft can be used in conjunction with RTC and its new FlexRide program, which offers on-demand curbside-to-curbside transportation at standard RTC Ride fares.

“By using N4 Connect in conjunction with FlexRide and other transportation programs, N4 members can stretch their Lyft credits out further,” says Dewitt-Smith.

The Lyft program is available in Washoe County, but N4 is working on the Statewide Transit Project that will bring together rural transit providers to provide additional access for people with wheelchairs and those in rural areas of Nevada.

Wright says the Lyft passes have allowed her to stop worrying about transportation.

“It’s made a huge difference in my life,” she says. “This has given me a whole lot more freedom. Now I use Lyft to grocery shop and go to doctors.”

Wright plays the cello and bass, and also writes music. So she uses Lyft to get to her music lessons.

“Now with COVID a consideration, I use it for everything,” she adds. “It gets me there at the time I need to be there, without waiting for rides. N4 Connect gives me freedom.”

N4 connect is a lifeline

Another fan of N4 Connect is Sparks resident Jeane Newbrough. While Newbrough recently moved and is now much closer to the bus line, she used Lyft voucher before her move to get her to a bus stop so she could fulfill her important day-to-day obligations.

“I went through a lot of those passes,” she says. “It’s a fine program. It allowed me to get groceries, catch a bus to run errands or get downtown.”

Dewitt-Smith says the voucher are a great gift idea for those with friends and relatives who are older or have a disability, and have difficulty finding transportation. Interested purchasers can complete the N4 Connect Interest Form, and an N4 Connect Project Coordinator will be in touch to begin the application process. Once they’re established, they can use their own smartphone to access Lyft, and if they don’t have a smartphone, they have the option to call N4 and schedule rides directly.

“N4 Connect helps people stay connected to the people and resources that are important to all of us,” Dewitt-Smith says. “And those of us with our own cars and the ability to drive often underestimate how much that means.”

For Wright, N4 Connect was a lifeline.

“When I really needed it, it was there,” she says. “And I loved it.”

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