The promise of a return to “normal life” has preoccupied just about every sector during the pandemic. But transportation has faced its own unique challenges, especially human services transportation providers. From pauses on travel training programs to limited vehicle capacity and the challenges of social distancing, pre-pandemic standard operations of transit systems still seem slightly out of reach.
NADTC explored the nuances of running human services transportation programs during the pandemic and what holds for the post-pandemic future in a 4-week online course. We focused on how transportation providers responded in the immediate aftermath, organizational resilience, how programs prioritize equity and diversity, and the provision of medical transportation in the wake of COVID-19 (with an emphasis on rural geographies). Our speakers shared their program experience with the disruptions of COVID-19 and how they are gearing up to prepare for “what’s next” in this post-pandemic landscape. We were thrilled that over 160 participants joined together for the course.
In addition to hearing directly from our featured presenters, participants had the opportunity to engage in discussion forums to exchange information about their own experiences, describe the impact of the virus on their programming, and discuss both the challenging and successful moments in managing the uncertain circumstances they’ve encountered. We structured the course in such a way that the engagement of participants was a key part of learning. Our speakers’ presentations provided a background and framework that would allow participants to link the concepts to their own community. What emerged was a rich online conversation around a few common themes:
- Personal fears of contracting the virus and how to prevent transmission for staff and riders while providing essential transportation;
- Managing the fluctuations in county or state level mandates around virus mitigation behavior (vaccines, masking, distancing, etc.);
- Creativity in serving the community. When rides were paused, many shifted services from transportation to other ways to serve the community, one common example was the delivery of food;
- Business concerns around short and long-term financial difficulties;
- The importance of engagement and social connections with riders/clients and changes in these relationships because of imposed restrictions;
- Revelation of systemic inequalities in communities;
- The importance of investment in program marketing and gathering community support for transportation services.
While this course discussed moving towards a future where programs can operate despite the pandemic, we understand the uncertainty, concern, worry, and challenging personal circumstances and business changes that the virus has created. It is important for us to acknowledge the unique challenges human services organizations and transportation services are facing – and continue to face on a daily basis. A declining demand, new customer expectations, safety responsibilities, and operational challenges have created difficulties that many were wholly unprepared for. Our hope is that this course has helped provide support and understanding to each other as we navigate this challenge together.
NADTC would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to our speakers:
- Shawn Fong, Program Manager, Ride On Tri City! Transportation Services, Freemont, CA
- Lynna Mitchell, Grant Writer, Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens, Cedar Bluff, VA
- Ken Pollock, Transit Director, Bay Aging, Warsaw, VA
- Jane Skinner, Adult Program Manager, Peninsula Jewish Community Center, Foster City, CA
For more information on NADTC courses, sign up for the NADTC eNews.
Eileen Schroff is an independent consultant and a contractor for the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center.