The new Spirit of Kokomo vehicles are turning heads, but more importantly, they’re moving people. The city of Kokomo recently purchased a trio of MV1 para-transit vehicles, and the response has been favorable.
The MV1 is specifically designed to accommodate the needs of wheelchair-bound individuals, with room inside for two wheelchairs and additional passengers. According to Kokomo Senior Center Director Tammy Corn, the addition of these SUV-style vehicles has opened up possibilities for the senior bus system.
“One of the mayor’s concerns was we had the buses driving around with one, two, or three people on it,” said Corn. “We have 12-passenger buses that are rarely full to capacity. He had ideas to cluster people, which is working well, but we also wanted to integrate a smaller vehicle. Now, we can do small ‘will-call’ runs for one or two people without a problem.
“Let’s say you have to go to the doctor. Your appointment is at 1 p.m., but you don’t know how long it will take. You can call when you’re done, and we send out an available vehicle.”
The city originally looked at purchasing minivans to fill the need for small vehicles and more frequent trips, but they weren’t a good fit for the para-transit riders.
“Because of the height of the vans, they aren’t conducive to para-transit,” said Corn. “If you have a wheelchair and throw it in the back, that’s one thing. But for our para-transit needs, that doesn’t work very well.
“We got three of them. They are wonderful. The only drawback was the optional jump seat attached to the back of the driver’s seat. It makes for a pretty intimate ride. Fortunately, it folds up.”
Corn has nothing but praise for everything else about the MV1. Loading and unloading passengers is a simple matter, thanks to two retractable ramps that provide a gentle incline for wheelchair boarding. The vehicles also use less fuel, getting approximately eight miles to the gallon more than the Spirit of Kokomo buses.
Best of all was the price. The city was able to purchase the three MV1s for the price of one 12-passenger bus.
There is one drawback to the system -- demand has spiked with the introduction of the new vehicles.
“People are waiting a little longer; we’re as busy as ever,” said Corn. “But it’s the best free transportation system in the state. It’s a free-will donation to ride, and we’re serving a lot of people.”
Corn explained that Spirit of Kokomo riders still must schedule their rides ahead of time, making arrangements no later than 2 p.m. the day before the trip. She also noted that the 12-passenger buses will not be replaced by the MV1s. Larger groups, such as Bona Vista and the nursing homes, will continue to be able to schedule the traditional Spirit of Kokomo mini-buses for their outings.
The Spirit of Kokomo bus service is available to all city residents aged 60 or older, as well as any disable citizen -- permanently, temporarily, physically, or mentally. To make an appointment, call 456-2078.
The MV1 is manufactured by VPG, a Florida-based company with headquarters in Detroit and a manufacturing facility in South Bend. For additional information about the MV1, visit vpgautos.com.