The following is the first in a series of blogs on Transportation Information & Assistance and is part of a series of NADTC activities on the same topic, including two planned webinars and an information brief.
“Transportation information and assistance” is a broad term meant to encompass the varied approaches that communities may adopt to respond to ride requests and answer questions about transportation options. These include specialized transportation information services as well as general information and assistance programs, and may include the following:
- One-Call/One-Click Transportation Resource Centers
- Mobility Management
- Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs)
- Area Agency on Aging (AAA) or Center for Independent Living (CIL) Information and Referral/Assistance Programs
So, why is information and assistance a critical issue for the field of transportation?
Based on numerous requests to the NADTC from community social workers, hospital discharge planners, and housing coordinators seeking rides for their clients, it appears that access to information about transportation options can be a major barrier to successful community living for older adults people with disabilities. For those who are used to driving, the need to begin using transportation “alternatives” comes as an unpleasant surprise. Simply trying to find out about transportation options available in their own communities is often the first transportation barrier that many encounter.
Individual providers provide information about the services they offer, but typically do not provide information about their competitors’ services and may not know what other options exist. Transportation services are often fragmented, so patching together a picture of the array of transportation choices available can be complicated, even in communities with limited transportation options.
Approximately 3.6 million medical appointments are missed each year due to lack of transportation, an all too common occurrence that negatively impacts individuals who are struggling to live in the community. The question is…how many of those missed appointments might have been kept had comprehensive information about community transportation options been readily available? And what are the consequences when people just give up trying to find transportation?
Transportation information and assistance can serve as a gateway to transportation for people with disabilities and older adults.
The world of transportation information and assistance is complex and differs from community to community. Generally speaking, the following broad definitions apply, but these services share a common mission to help connect individuals to rides and respond to other transportation needs.
- One-call/one-click centers are intended to provide a comprehensive listing of all the transportation options available in the community and may operate as the single point of entry for transportation information. Some communities offer only a one-call service, while others have focused on the provision of web-based information and assistance. Either of these services may enable prospective riders to compare different travel options, find out about costs and learn which options offer specialized services such as wheelchair-equipped vehicles. Some even enable users to determine their eligibility for certain services, book and schedule rides and handle payments.
- Mobility management is designed to provide one-on-one assistance to individuals seeking transportation, help them identify the ride options best suited to meet their needs and may even make referrals to transportation providers or arrange rides. Mobility managers may work with individuals to make an individualized “transportation plan” to support their continued connection to medical care, shopping and social activities.
The remaining three services listed above (ADRCs, AAAs or CILs and 2-1-1 services) often provide transportation information and assistance but have a broader information and referral/assistance mandate. In some communities, Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC), Information and Assistance Programs operated by the Area Agency on Aging or Center for Independent Living or 2-1-1 may actually operate a one-call center or function as a mobility manager. In other communities, since these broader information and assistance providers are widely recognized as trusted resources, they are likely to receive calls about transportation needs even when there is a mobility manager or one-call/one-click center.
Technology is a key component of any information and referral service. Interactive websites, smart phone apps and even less sophisticated voice-activated information programs offer many people convenience and easy access to all the information they need to travel. However, for the less tech-savvy and people without computers or smart phones, the need for personalized information and assistance is critical. In addition, transportation for many older adults and people with disabilities is complicated by their need for ride assistance, such as help getting in and out of a vehicle, mobility limitations or limited income, all of which will impact the transportation options that will work for them.
NADTC recommends a person-centered approach to providing transportation information and assistance. Such an approach puts the individual seeking transportation in the driver’s seat, offers both information and decision support, and is designed to enable the individual to choose the ride option that best meets his/her individual needs, preferences and circumstances. Perhaps equally important, coordination across transportation providers AND across information and assistance providers is necessary to ensure that no matter where individuals begin their search for transportation, they get the information they need to obtain a ride when and where they need it to the extent that services are available.
Transportation Information and Assistance Series ~ Coming Soon!
- Blog #2: “Trusted Networks”
- Webinar on June 21, 2017 at 2-3:30 pm ET: “How New Information and Scheduling Technologies Support Mobility Access for All”