In upstate New York, a rural community is offering an on-demand door to door service, and fixed route service. In Washington State, King County Metro created a community transportation navigator program, striving to create culturally inclusive systems to navigate their public transit system.
At the CTAA Expo in May, several mobility managers shared poster presentations about innovative projects in their community. Both Schuyler County, NY and King County, Washington, face challenges common in communities around the US, and have implemented programs to better serve their communities.
Public transit in a rural community
Schuyler County, NY is a rural community in the Finger Lakes region, with Seneca Lake bisecting the 328 square mile county. With a median income almost $20,000 less than New York’s statewide median and a growing population of senior citizens, the county’s mobility managers are challenged with meeting diverse community needs.
“We serve a lot of primarily low socio-economic standing, limited resources, a lot of elderly individuals, people with disabilities.” said mobility manager Gail Walker.
One of their largest needs is getting riders to non-emergency medical appointments. While the team is exploring a partnership with their local medical center, services are currently provided by the county’s transit system and public health partners through fixed route, limited on-demand services and flex routes that have six fixed stops, but can serve on-demand stops by reservation in advance. The team looks forward to expanding their popular Dial-A-Ride service, which offers door to door on demand service to all residents, currently available Tuesday-Friday.
“The question is always how do you fund it?” said Walker. “What are your needs? The funding is always there. You need to start with a vision.”
Community Transportation Navigators support equity in transportation
King County, WA a diverse community that includes Seattle and other populous areas, identified that their complex transportation system created inequitable transit access for some populations. In a study done by the King County Metro system, the team identified that Filipino and Somali communities in the region weren’t using public transit often and when they were, they paid for their fares using cash rather than with the ORCA pass, their regional transit pass.
To make their regional transit system more inclusive, the team successfully piloted a peer-to-peer program to reach the Tagalog-speaking Filipino community in King County. “So what we did is we recruited directly from community members,” said Sandy Phan, Program Supervisor for Hopelink, a nonprofit Washington State Community Action Partner (WSCAP) that works to build healthy communities and eliminate poverty. “Who are the folks that already have strong community champions, networks, and ties within that community?” said Phan.
Hopelink hired three Filipino Women who work as part-time independent contractors to work as Community Transportation Navigators. “Because of our position in the community as the mobility management agency, by being a non-transit agency, we consider ourselves mode neutral,” said Sara Sisco, Senior Manager of Mobility, Education and Outreach at Hopelink. “We look at the full picture of transit. We want [clients] to find the best services, and so we talk about alternative services,” Sisco said.
Although the Community Transportation Navigators work part-time, Hopelink’s team is careful to ensure they are included in professional development programming. “We invite them anytime we’re doing a lunch and learn for our team.” explained Sisco.
Focus on client needs. “We have pushed the envelope a lot on the existing fixed route, and we have gotten a lot of older individuals and individuals with disabilities to ride the public transit bus using a fixed route deviation,” said Schuyler County’s Gail Walker.
Be flexible. “If you were to implement this similar program model, you need to be flexible, because things are going to change,” explained Hopelink’s Sandy Phan. “You’re going to hear different outreach and feedback from your navigators, and if they’re telling you something’s not working, then that’s important information for us to take in and consider if we want to continue improving the process and the program.”
For more information email Gail Walker at WalkerGM@arcofcs.org or Sara Sisco at email@example.com