The Centralina region is made up of nine counties that are highly interconnected from a transportation perspective. With specialized healthcare options available in Charlotte, Gastonia, Monroe, Concord and the W. G. Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury, many of our county transit systems cross county lines daily to transport their residents to needed services. As our region continues to grow, we expect to see more demands placed on our transit systems. Simultaneously, our population is aging quickly and we will have more individuals that do not drive, but will need to depend on public transit, human service transit, private options, or volunteer drivers to get them to their needed destinations.
The Current System
In the Centralina region, many county transit vehicles cross county lines each month to transport older adults and adults with disabilities. Most of these vehicles have a common destination point: one of the medical centers in the region. Often times these vehicles crossing county lines are not fully occupied. While this system provides a needed service for their riders, the system, as it presently works, has some built-in problems:
1.The cost to transport persons between counties (i.e., long distances) is significant, particularly when the vehicle is not full. When the vehicles are being used for out of county transportation, the transit system must rely on a smaller fleet to serve the other daily demands within their respective counties.
2.Diminishing funding from counties, states and the federal government force all communities and agencies to look for ways in which they can be more efficient in service provision, while also meeting the growing needs in their communities.
3.Training of new drivers and staff is time consuming and costly to organize, particularly if there is only one or two new staff to receive training. Likewise, established drivers should have the opportunity to receive new cutting edge training, such as aging sensitivity training. The easier and more cost effective it is for systems to have their drivers receive pertinent training, the better service all passengers will receive throughout the region.
4.Applying for and administering FTA grants can be complicated, especially for multi-county applications. A mobility management agency can assist agencies in identifying and applying for new funding sources.
The Goals of the Centralina Mobility Management Program
We hope to create a more livable region that is positioned to meet the needs of all its citizens, including those who are most vulnerable. The mobility management program will accomplish a variety of outcomes, which include:
1. Initiating an information and referral program.
2. Quarterly coordination meetings.
3.Through targeted and coordinated training, transit agencies will have the opportunity to have drivers who are more knowledgeable, prepared and sensitive to the needs of their passengers. Centralina can work with agencies such as the National Transit Institute and the North Carolina Public Transit Association to offer regional transit specific trainings to staff from the provider agencies. In addition, Centralina aging staff can provide aging sensitivity and communications training to drivers and staff.
4. Initiating a volunteer transportation program and expanding it throughout the region.