First adopted in 2010, the Thurston Region’s Coordinated Human Services Transportation Plan serves as a comprehensive blueprint for addressing transportation choices, gaps, and solutions for the region’s people – who because of age, income or ability – may face mobility issues. In working with stakeholders in developing the plan, we were often reminded that the needs and gaps articulated do not just impact people with a disability. As is often said about the Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA) – a system designed for people with mobility challenges generally works better for everyone.
The goals of the plan are to:
If you want to discuss Human Services Transportation issues in the Thurston region, contact:
Karen Parkhurst, Planning & Policy Director
Thurston Regional Planning Council
2411 Chandler Court SW
Olympia, WA 98502
Even with a variety of multimodal options, people with special needs – age, income, ability – may experience limited mobility choices. They may become isolated and unable to participate in vital activities or receive critical services. Without reliable transportation, these residents face severe barriers in obtaining and retaining employment, taking care of essential needs such as health care and shopping, participating in recreational activities, and other critical functions. In this update, we continue our focus on the veterans’ community and consideration of people with special needs in disaster planning. We also added a new focus on the challenges of transporting school children under the McKinney-Vento Assistance Act of 1987.
Systems Thinking. Practical Solutions. Universal Design. Accessibility. Inclusivity. Mobility. From technology, to roads, to how we design our homes rely on a systems approach. How can we maintain existing services, keep people safe, wring the most we can out of previous investments, and agilely adapt to changing needs? Can we create a cohesive transportation system that serves all – with plenty of signage to ensure people know their choices?
Information. How do we ensure that people know about services that might be helpful in living their fullest life? Does everyone have Internet Access, use Apps, read the newspaper, consult with friends and family?
Inclusivity is also about the language we use: FrameWorks Institute recommends that “to successfully characterize people in later life, use the terms “older person” or “older people” because these terms cue that an individual is over the age of 60 while also prompting associations of competence.”
Systems also need to work in urban, suburban, and rural places – seeking equal access and inclusivity, but also recognizing challenges. Again, looking at language – how do we measure “productivity” in areas with low density and longer trips? And in looking at best solutions, how do we compare costs between a very rural and a mostly urban service?
Transportation professionals often talk about the concept of “one ride at a time,” recognizing that individual’s needs differ and a successful transportation system must consider those individual needs, while also recognizing how they fit into the whole. Without careful planning, coordination, and collaboration, our “one ride at a time” can lead to a disjointed, inefficient, and confusing system.
For many years, the Regional Council facilitated the Thurston County Human Services Transportation Forum (HSTF or Forum) – a coalition of social service and transportation providers, governmental entities, and others. The group documented needs, explored alternatives, and supported services. Forum programs such as ruralTransit (rT), Thurston County Bus Buddies, and Intercity Transit Village Vans have improved the lives of many people in the Thurston Region. Most every day, these services transport people to jobs, training, essential services, and other important destinations.
Due to the commitment of the Thurston Region, discussion and planning for Human Services Transportation is no longer segregated and relegated to a special forum or committee.
Because of several new initiatives in the region, and due to dwindling time for another meeting on people’s calendars, the Region now works on Human Services Transportation issues through existing groups. We routinely update elected officials and community stakeholders on these transportation issues rather than convening an ad-hoc group every 4 years.
Beyond the commitment of regional policymakers, the state and federal government encourage coordination. The Washington State Legislature’s creation of the Agency Council on Coordinated Transportation (ACCT) recognized the wastefulness of duplication of efforts and that coordination would result in more services for more people. ACCT’s planning funds, technical assistance, and grant programs made the local and regional successes possible. The federal government’s United We Ride initiative and provisions of federal transportation legislation both encourage and require coordination – at the planning and service levels.
TRPC went to the “tables” of many organizations in the community – routinely to the Regional Council and Transportation Policy Board, public and private transportation providers, associations such as Community Transportation Association of the Northwest (CTANW), Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), and the Washington Transit Association. TRPC discussed gaps and strategies at Rotary and Kiwanis events, with the Senior Network, and with providers of services for people with low incomes and people who are unsheltered. We arranged for time at Thurston County Veterans forums, Thurston Thrives (Thurston County Public Health and Social Services community impact initiative), and the South Thurston Economic Development Initiative (STEDI) – rural business and community building. We asked questions at poverty forums and at community workshops for other TRPC initiatives. We spoke to new organizations and long-standing colleagues and asked “what about…” through the many Hazards, Climate Adaptation, and emergency response and recovery planning events.
We also explored state and federal data and nationwide advocacy and other groups for strategies.