The sprawling Phoenix metropolitan area makes it difficult to get around without a private vehicle.
It’s even more difficult for organizations serving, and housing, older adults and people with disabilities to transport them where they need to go. Coordinating rides with the area’s paratransit providers can prove difficult when dozens of clients need to commute to work or get to programming or medical appointments at varying days and times. Some organizations may have the financial means to own their vehicles or have the institutional knowledge and capacity to capture Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Sect. 5310 funds for financing, but not all are able to do so.
For some organizations, paying high rates to third-party providers for accessible, once-in-a-while trips to outings and appointments is the only viable option. Understanding the difficulties in accessible vehicle rental, the Chandler/Gilbert Arc (“C/G Arc”) has created a program that provides local agencies with the opportunity to use the Arc’s fleet of vehicles, including wheelchair accessible vans and buses. In conversation with Chandler/Gilbert Arc’s Executive Director, Billy Parker, the NCMM discussed the importance of transportation in furthering their mission, their van sharing program, and the Arc’s future plans for the program.
Background on Chandler/Gilbert Arc
Since its founding in 1965 by parents of adults with disabilities, Chandler/Gilbert Arc has served the disability community with multiple programs and services. Daily, over 200 people with intellectual and development disabilities take part in C/G Arc’s programs. These include a community living center, the Arc-based and community-based employment, and transportation.
For residents of the community living center and participants of employment services, C/G Arc’s transportation service allows them the freedom to travel where they need and want to go. As Billy stated, almost all of C/G Arc’s members have a “heavy reliance [on the Arc] for all of their transportation.” Whether that’s to get them to their workplace, medical appointments, home, or a recreation space, C/G Arc facilitates movement to these places for people who otherwise wouldn’t have the means.
C/G Arc’s transportation program has existed since 1994 and currently consists of 35 vehicles (largely vans and cut-away shuttles) purchased with FTA Sect. 5310 money. The vast majority of vehicles are wheelchair accessible and allow for people of all abilities to safely enter and exit them. The standard service type is door-to-door, which makes sure that all riders get to their destination safely, often by a staff member who is familiar with the rider due to the fact the majority of C/G Arc staff have the ability to drive the fleet’s vehicles.
A Better Solution
Given that C/G Arc’s transportation program has existed for over 20 years, there is a strong base of institutional knowledge on specialized transportation, as well as a large and dependent ridership. But for similar organizations, providing transportation can be difficult.
In 2014, Billy became a member of the Chandler Mayor’s Committee on Disability. The committee works to solve issues involving people with disabilities. During a committee meeting, a member of the committee, the Chandler Therapeutic Recreation program, asked if anyone had information on wheelchair accessible vehicles for rent. The program was renting an accessible van occasionally, but the prices were very expensive and made it difficult to use frequently.
It became clear that C/G Arc had the vehicles available (they weren’t in use all the time) and that they could be shared at an affordable rate with other nonprofits. After a conversation with insurance companies and the FTA regarding sharing federally purchased vehicles, an MOU was drafted and the ability for outside organizations to rent C/G Arc’s vehicles came to fruition. It worked due to the transparency laid out in the initial MOU; the driver was known, the destination was clear, and the frequency of trips was outlined.
As time has passed, documents and procedures have evolved as new issues needing clarification have arisen. It’s a continuous process, with living documents that are revised as liability concerns (e.g., Do drivers/riders need additional coverage? Does C/G Arc need to be on the policy for renting organizations?) have been addressed. Yet, the process of requesting a vehicle is as simple as emailing C/G Arc with the date and time of use. Through the ease of requesting vehicles, two outside organizations, the Chandler Therapeutic Recreation program and the Valley Center for the Deaf, have benefited from using C/G Arc’s vehicles; the Arc is looking for that number of partners to grow.
A Next Step
Billy was approached by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), as they knew of the van sharing program, to become a subregional mobility manager. A formal relationship already existed between MAG and C/G Arc as the Arc received its Sect. 5310 monies through MAG.
In this role, Billy is able to advocate for mobility solutions at a regional level alongside two other subregional mobility managers. Coordination between human service agencies and across the Phoenix area is the focus of the team, with trainings and provide support for regional coordination strategies outlined in the MAG Human Services Comprehensive Transportation Plan.
One initiative Billy has pushed forward is the accumulation and distribution of the various van-sharing program documents. With these items freely available on the MAG’s webpage for the sub-regional mobility managers, and discussed through quarterly meetings, the hope is that other organizations in the area could take part in, or start, their own vehicle-sharing program. While the documents focus on Arizona policies and procedures, the documents can be used as a base to start customizing a similar program to your area and organization’s needs.
To find out more about Chandler/Gilbert Arc’s work, including their mobility management program, visit their website linked in the button below.