SPIN Launches Pilot with Dream Center

William Darden, left, and Brandon Parker are two of the participants in the Dream Center’s mobility study in partnership with SPIN, Golden Empire Transit and UC Davis.

Teenager on scooter

The Dream Center of Kern County is in the beginning stages of an exciting pilot program to expand transportation opportunities for vulnerable youth ages 18 to 25.

SPIN and Golden Empire Transit are providing 100 Dream Center youth with access to free public transit, SPIN e-bikes, and e-scooters for one year as part of this Universal Basic Mobility project. It comes at a time when over 18,000 people in Bakersfield are between the ages of 16 and 24 are not in school or working a job (as of 2019), making it one of the highest rates of youth disconnection in the United States.

 Jayme Stuart, a Child and Family Services Coordinator who has worked at the Dream Center for 29 years, is excited and grateful for this opportunity to further support youth who could benefit from more flexible modes of transportation.

 “Youth entering this pilot program are making things happen for themselves — or trying to make things happen,” said Stuart. “We want to support them as they find jobs, go to school, or simply benefit from easier modes of transportation.”

 The program aims to understand how having a guaranteed level of transportation could change the outcomes for people who have previously gone without it. Researchers at UC Davis will conduct surveys to measure the program’s impact on participants’ economic, health, and social outcomes at the beginning, middle, and end of the pilot.

 So far, initial participation has yielded positive outcomes. Two participants, Brandon Parker, 20, and William Darden, 21, have seen a vast improvement in their daily schedule as they ride around town using SPIN’s e-scooters.

“I’ve been riding the e-scooters for about two to three weeks – now my schedule is way cleaner,” said Darden. “Instead of having a complex schedule or having to set money aside to purchase an Uber or a bus pass, I can now focus on more things for myself.”

Parker agreed: “Spinning is fun and can quickly get me to most places I need to go.”

 The Bakersfield pilot is the third Universal Basic Mobility pilot that SPIN is participating in, making the Bakersfield initiative part of a larger project to understand how its services can be more inclusive and better support transportation ecosystems in cities around the world. Other cities with pilot programs include Pittsburgh and Oakland.

The Dream Center — which is run by KCSOS’s Kern County Network for Children — collaborates with local businesses, public agencies, non-profits, and community members to provide services to foster youth. The Center itself is Kern County’s only one-stop resource center for current and former foster youth up to age 25. With over 400 youths served since July 1, the Dream Center is excited to provide this opportunity to those who need this type of support.

 “Coming to the Dream Center has been great,” said Darden. “They care about you and are hands-on. Usually, my instinct is to be on my own and figure things out by myself, but I had to be uncomfortable to ask for help, and now I’m glad I did.”

If you know of any current or former foster youths ages 18 to 25 who need help with transportation, please refer them to the Dream Center at 661-636-4488.