TMACOG recently received a grant that will allow senior citizens and persons with disabilities to more fully participate in discussions about how best to provide transportation to a population that depends on public transit. The grant application was put together by TMACOG and the Area Office on Aging in collaboration with several other agencies and citizens who use transit. It was a competitive grant with only 17 awards nationally. Collette Cordova, assistant vice president of the Area Office on Aging, saw the grant opportunity and called TMACOG to create a stronger application. She said, “I thought TMACOG, as a transportation planning agency, could direct a grant to a wider population that uses public transit rather than just the senior market.” Ms. Cordova will be presenting information about the program at a national meeting for Area Offices on Aging.
The grant will collect information in several steps. An initial series of meetings will address consumer needs and seek to identify gaps in service. The need for more reliable transportation to senior centers/group meal sites has already been identified and was one incentive for applying for the grant. Targeted focus groups will be held this summer to collect additional information about local transportation challenges. Ms. Cordova said that initial talks with a consumer steering group have been illuminating. “We may think we know what the issues are,” she said, “but we learned that we may be making assumptions.” For example, steering group members cited a need for two-way trips. Currently, a person who has a quick errand at a pharmacy would need to schedule two separate paratransit trips no matter how short the errand in between. Another issue that can prevent some older people from using public transit stems from a simple lack of understanding about how TARTA or TARPS works. “If you have driven all your life and only recently began to need assistance, you are not a sophisticated user and you need help. An advocate or an escort can make it possible for an older person with visual impairments or dementia to use the bus or van service,” said Cordova.
Following the focus sessions, a community forum is planned for September with a wide range of providers and consumers. At the forum, participants will problem-solve together and prioritize their results. Organizers hope for ideas on how to share resources throughout the region.
The aim of the six-month program is to improve transportation planning with greater consumer involvement through a consumer-led Transportation Advisory Board. If further funding is obtained, a mobility manager may be hired to help implement plans.
Partners in the project include TMACOG, the Area Office on Aging of Northwest Ohio, the Ability Center of Greater Toledo, the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities, the Sight Center, TARTA, and Black and White Transportation. The grant was awarded by the U.S. Administration for Community Living and administered by the Community Transportation Association of America.
For more information on the project contact Diane Reamer-Evans at 419.241.9155 ext. 117.