By Whitney E. Gray
When communities come together to enhance transportation services, they may need to look at multiple options and aspects of accessibility. From curb ramps, bus lifts, and taxis to one-call/one-click centers and social media, creating a fully coordinated system may take more effort but is more inclusive for all. In Bloomington, Indiana, for instance, the community has discovered that full accessibility requires an in-depth look at all aspects of their transportation system. The community has continued to see an increase in inclusivity for all as they enhance different aspects of the system and create new services.
The Bloomington ATCI Team (2011)
In 2011, the community of Bloomington, applied and was accepted to Easter Seals Project ACTION’s Accessible Transportation Coalitions Initiative. As a result of their participation in ATCI, the Bloomington team established the Monroe County Coalition for Access and Mobility (see MCCAM’s Facebook page). Several organizations in the community are members, including Bloomington Transit, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, Indiana University, the Area 10 Agency on Aging, Ivy Tech Community College, and the National Center on Accessibility, along with advocates who have disabilities, and community social workers. The group has met monthly for two years, and someone with a disability is usually in attendance.
To begin their work and better determine the needs of the community, MCCAM first worked to collect data on the types of requests that Bloomington Transit and Rural Transit (a service of the AAA) received that they could not meet. The group identified the need to have a mobility manager to develop a transportation voucher program and research the viability of a volunteer driver program. To fund the mobility manager position, Bloomington Transit applied for and received a grant through the Federal Transit Administration’s New Freedom Program, in 2013. The transit company implemented the grant through the AAA and hired, in May of 2013, Barbara Salisbury, a member of MCCAM and a community advocate, on a part-time basis.
Salisbury’s next project will be to look at the viability of a volunteer driver program. She will start by looking at available resources in the community to see what coordination efforts might be successful in expanding, even further, the transportation options for people with disabilities.
Bloomington Transit just recently applied for a second New Freedom grant and hopes to learn in early, 2014, as to whether they will be awarded this grant. These funds will be used to provide additional dollars for the voucher program and expand the mobility management activities to include mobility education and travel training.
At the most recent MCCAM meeting, the group decided to take a look at transportation from a broader perspective and focus on pedestrian issues in their area. For a future meeting, the MPO is planning to send a representative to talk to the group about the policies and practices in place for the city, area, and county regarding pedestrian development. Questions regarding pedestrian access that the group may look at include:
• How do people get from point A to point B for bus access?
• Are pedestrian traffic signals accessible?
• Is pedestrian traffic signal retro-fitting possible?
• How accessible for all disabilities are the curb ramps in the community?
• What kind of policies already exist in the community that MCCAM can build off of?
• What policies need to and can be changed?
• Where can we be the most affective if we go forward with pedestrian issues?
Salisbury has also organized an additional advisory committee with primarily consumers and stakeholders including people with disabilities and people providing direct support and care for people with disabilities. This advisory committee provides direct input on the programs and activities of the mobility management project.
As both her committee and MCCAM move forward with accessible transportation initiatives, ESPA continues to provide technical assistance as needed. Krystian Boreyko, ESPA training and technical assistance specialist who works with the community of Bloomington, stated, “The Bloomington ATCI team has grown and developed goals far and above their original ATCI project. Always with an inclusive mind-set, the team is working on both small and larger aspects of accessible transportation, leading to a more coordinated and inclusive transportation system for all.”