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Community Transportation Programs -
Helping with Dignity and Caring
By Sandra Ray, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 2)

There are a multitude of programs available to help the elderly and disabled reach appointments, go shopping, and perform other tasks associated with daily living. Not all of these are easily accessible or easy to find. The requirements often range from proof of age or disability, to income, as well as stating that no other transportation means are available. It is easy to become discouraged with the process and give up interacting with the community at large.

Rural communities, oddly enough, may have more transportation alternatives than urban areas. In recent years, grants from the Department of Transportation and other state and federal programs have increased the amount of transportation available in rural communities, especially for those individuals who need to access medical services. Still, these programs may not offer flexible scheduling, and they may not offer access to shopping in larger areas or simply pleasure trips. Depending on the area and the funding source for the transportation, there may be specific eligibility criteria that limit access for individuals in need.

According to the Department of Transportation, approximately 38 percent of individuals live in areas without access to public transportation. In addition, in late 2006, the first of the “Baby Boomer” generation reached retirement age. By 2030, the number of individuals who are 65 and older will double to more than 70 million (Community Transportation Association of America, 2003). This influx of individuals who are eligible for senior transportation programs could cause some programs to begin to limit transportation options simply based on inability to serve as many people as need services.

Independent Transportation Network (ITN):

The Independent Transportation Network (ITN) has developed a viable model program that can be readily duplicated across the United States, helping to solve some of the transportation woes that communities are facing today. Started in 1999 as a result of research sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration, AARP, and the Transportation Research Board, the Maine-based non-profit offers the program to seniors and individuals with vision impairments.

The mission statement of ITN is “to provide a community-based, and community supported, economically viable and consumer-oriented, quality transportation service for seniors.” The program is supported, not only by individuals who use the service, but by businesses who want to encourage individuals to use their company’s services and products. For example, a business may want to provide free trips to individuals who shop at their store or use their products. Businesses can receive monthly statements regarding usage and the customer is provided with quick, easy transportation. Health care providers can also participate and help offset the costs of getting seniors to necessary health check-ups and other appointments.

The project is available in thirteen communities in Maine and is being planned for communities such as Charleston/Trident, South Carolina; Mercer County, New Jersey; Orlando, Florida; and Santa Monica, California. The national network (www.itnamerica.org) is now implementing full-scale nationwide roll-out that started in the fall 2005. Corporations, foundations, and the Federal Transit Administration provided the initial funding for the project which will help reshape the face of transportation for older Americans in the U.S.

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