- Author: Alex King
- Date: March 23, 2020
For many of us, the last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, as we work to grapple with how…
States are adapting their methods to address emergent and unexpected needs of families for transportation as well as a precipitous decline in ridership during this pandemic.
For example, Mid-Coast Public Transportation in Maine had to retool and find new ways to serve the community. They adapted quickly, retaining much of their workforce and continued to meet the needs of families across the state as a provider for Waldo Community Action Partners (WCAP). Like other transit providers nationally, Mid-Coast modified its services and established partnerships to support communities innovatively, beyond its regular activities. They began to implement some of the following:
These adaptations spotlight that transit is not just a way to get from point A to Point B – but, a service itself.
Buses, vanpools and rideshares provide critical access to food, health care, broadband, employment, education, and inclusive community activities. When transportation is seen through a whole family lens, possibilities arise that are creative and enduring, even in a post-COVID-19 world. There is suddenly great value in transportation as a service and this comes with new partnerships, connections and roles.
This time of adaptation and innovation for the family calls for even stronger connections between transportation and human services. Fortunately, there are Federal efforts, including the Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility (CCAM), which recognize holistic approaches working across lanes and breaking down silos.
When family is in the center, workforce, education, human services, healthcare and transportation all play essential roles in supporting the success of families and communities. A Whole Family Approach to Jobs (WFAJ) is a state-federal initiative in New England seeking to increase family economic mobility by identifying state-driven program and policy alignment opportunities for low-income parents and develop a regional learning community focused on whole family approaches.
Recent work has focused on making connections cross-sector among housing, transportation, labor and human services. The partnerships created among WFAJ stakeholders have been important in current strategies related to COVID-19 response for families.
At the WFAJ meeting in March, New England transportation and human service leaders met to discuss Transportation, Peer Learning and Effective Practices that Move Families Forward. Judy Shanley, Easterseals Director NCMM, a TA provider for the Federal Transit Administration offered a national view, with examples of how states and communities across the country are meeting transportation needs of families.
The discussion continued during the COVID-19 crisis and stakeholders worked to address new innovations, gaps and challenges in transportation. The group has exchanged ideas and resources to address transportation challenges related to the critical services that individuals need – in a holistic way. Some current examples in New England include:
These examples underscore the connections across human services and transportation. Leaders in both fields agree that many of these practices and innovations should remain post-COVID-19 as they show the efficacy of collaboration at the policy and program levels; the importance of braiding and/or blending funding; and the strength of engaging mobility managers, front-line workers and the customer.
A human service coordinated transportation plan is a good start to identifying partners.
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