Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Transportation for Seniors in Fairfield Co., CT

What happens when you can't drive anymore? In the suburbs, getting around becomes really hard, and seniors can become isolated. That's why transportation solutions are so very important for seniors who want to remain in their homes as they get older.

On March 4, 2008, the Fairfield/Westchester Regional Aging in Place Coalition had a meeting which focused on transportation. This coalition covers Westchester County, NY, and Fairfield County, CT. Here are minutes of the meeting. To learn more, visit the TAG Web site at www.ridetag.org.

Fairfield/Westchester Regional Aging in Place Coalition Meeting
Jim Boutelle, Transportation Association of Greenwich (TAG) spoke about transportation services TAG provides throughout the region. www.ridetag.org

• TAG has 19 vehicles, paid drivers. They operate 5 AM – 7 PM, Monday through Friday and Saturday 7 AM – 6 PM. 280 rides per day, 80% standing orders. Maximum travel times are 8:30 – 1:30 and 2-5:30. ½ of trips are medical. They will do group outings for $65-75/hour depending on size of the bus.
• With a variety of government funding sources, they provide a free Red X Motor Service using volunteer drivers Monday – Friday. Riders must be ambulatory.
• Call a Ride also uses volunteer drivers.
• They dispatch for the Red Cross.
• All their vehicles are handicap accessible, except one van. There are 5 mini vans in the fleet, plus 12-20 passenger buses.
• Clients include Greenwich Adult Day Care, ARC, ARI.
• Dial a Ride service charges $3 anywhere in Greenwich or Greenwich to Port Chester. Limited to disabled and senior population. $77,000 funding from state is matched by the town. Dial a Ride is paid for by a “special transportation fund” at DOT and funded by a gas tax. CT is discontinuing its $77,000 contribution to Dial a Ride. TAG needs to cut costs and raise fares, possibly to $8.50 in zone 1 and $11.70 in zone 2, which is how rides used to be charged.
• Easy Access Program transports clients who cannot use the fixed route system due to a physical or mental incapacity. They must be certified by Norwalk Transit. Trips run parallel to the fixed route bus lines. Departure and destination must be within ¾ mile of a fixed route bus line. The fare to client is ticket at $2.25.
• "Route Match" (from Atlanta, GA) is dispatch and scheduling software developed specifically for senior and disabled transportation. It creates pick up windows of 15 minutes around when people want to be picked up and delivered, although there is an over-ride capability for employment or MD appointments.
• TAG received a $100,000 grant which enabled them to purchase a server, 5 terminals and software. They received $50K from the United Way and another $200,000 via fundraising. They ask the user to pay 60% of the cost. Handicap accessible vehicles cost an average of $50,000 each.
• Other
o Regional coordination meetings.
o Dial a Ride and Easy Access will go into NY, but they normally cannot originate a pick up in NY. They can pick up NY residents at the Port Chester border.
o They keep their service to a 60 mile radius from their garage, which minimizes the amount of paperwork required to maintain on board each vehicle. Regulations get much more complicated when a fleet is managed out of more than 1 building/garage.
• Share the Fare is a taxi voucher program, but handicap accessibility is limited.
• Staffing and Training.
o Staff includes an office manager, finance director, scheduler and 2 dispatchers (3 people answer the phones). All are trained on the computers.
o 17 drivers are paid $16 an hour plus benefits. They are CDL licensed with passenger and air brake endorsements.
o Training is one week on how to handle vehicles and wheelchair tie downs and time at Norwalk Transit for disability awareness; the second week is with another driver supervising.
o Drivers are drug tested, background, license checks twice a year.
• Costs & Charges
o Dial a Ride costs $14.95; charge is $3.
o Easy Access costs $28; charge is?
o Tag puts 38,000 miles a year on each vehicle and replaces them every 3-4 years.
o Liability insurance is $5,000 per vehicle.

Jim’s recommendations for transportation advocacy:

1. Build a coalition.
a. Bring in the United Way (when TAG started, a United Way had recommended a TAG-like coordinator).
b. Include Area Agencies on Aging, AARP, AAA (does defensive driving for older driver) and other large membership organizations.
2. Point to a study in the letter (UConn has done a report on transportation with recommendations).
3. Know what laws are already on the books.
4. Find an ADA expert – CT has been forced to expand its program without ending fixed route buses.
5. Contact Craig Lader at SWRPA (SW Regional Planning Agency).
6. Contact federal representatives regarding possible violations of ADA.

No comments: