Sophie Gibson (left) and her husband Milton were treated by Pacific Cabulance to a dinner at the Salish Lodge at Snoqualmie Falls. Sophie was the company's first client.
Photo courtesy of Pacific Cabulance.
by Jeff Switzer
Sophie Gibson was Pacific Cabulance's first customer back in November 1995, and since that time she has been a part of their family.
The Woodinville-based company, which provides transportation for the physically impaired or people with special needs, treated Gibson to corsages and an evening dinner for her and her husband, Milton, at the Salish Lodge at Snoqualmie Falls Mar. 4.
Gibson has ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. She asked her driver, Jason Moorhead, president and founder of Pacific Cabulance, what she had done to deserve the free dinner. "Just being you, Sophie," answered Moorhead.
For physically impaired or special needs people, making any journey from home can be challenging, not to mention the necessary trips to clinics, doctors, hospitals, or visits to loved ones. Pacific Cabulance's mission is to make that ride more enjoyable and hand back freedoms that illnesses or diseases may have taken away. According to Moorhead, they do that by changing the emphasis from the passenger as "cattle" to the passenger as the client.
"People in the industry noticed the difference from day one," said Moorhead. "They said we were approaching this from a professional standpoint."
Cabulance has grown from three vans to five in the past six months. They transport 30 to 40 clients per day in a service area from Pierce County to Snohomish County.
Insurance brokers, such as Medicaid, call Pacific Cabulance to arrange rides for their clients. Cabulance has responded to a wide range of calls, from transporting an electric wheelchair user whose battery had died at 10:30 p.m. under I-90, to people who have broken their legs and can't drive. They've transported people who have been shot, been in car accidents, had strokes, the elderly, people with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or ALS.
"The increased growth of Pacific Cabulance reaffirms our belief that the special needs transportation market is ripe for consolidation, which goes to validate our vision," said Andrew Azure, director of marketing for the company.
The four mini-vans in their fleet have floors 10 inches lower than those of a standard van, putting the rider right up front with access to the radio, the window, heat, and air-conditioning. The up-front seat also gives the clients a view out the windows at eye level, rather than the industry-typical view of the pavement, and also allows for conversations between the client and driver.
For wheelchair users, Pacific provides sloped access ramps rather than wheelchair lifts, and the rider is never more than seven inches above the ground and always assisted by the driver.
Started last fall by Jason Moorhead and Greg Ahearn, Pacific Cabulance has 15 employees and is growing because of the large demand for their service.
Eleven of the employees also work for the Woodinville Fire and Life Safety district, either as career firefighters or support/volunteer, each with EMT training, giving the company medical training and experience that has proven to be a real asset.
"With the type of service we're providing, we hope to raise the standards in the industry," Moorhead said. "It's neat to see these people happy about being transported."