Chair: Don Willis, Transportation Coordinator, Wake County Human Services Betty Newell, Program Manager, Center for Volunteer Caregiving Leatrice Highsmith, Human Services Tech I, Wake County Human Services Sharon Council, Sights Unlimited, Inc. Lynn Templeton, Resource Investment Director, Triangle United Way Helen Leiner, consumer Jack Kimbrell, consumer, Senior Tar Heel Legislator
Key Issues According to an American Association of Retired Persons research brief, “transportation is an essential part of the community infrastructure that individuals need to gain access to the goods, services, and social contacts that support their day-to-day existence and qualify of life.” Transportation equates to mobility, independence, self-sufficiency, accessibility and safety. Transportation enables many senior adults to live independently and to stay connected with family, friends, and community resources.
Access to Transportation The 2002 Wake County Community Assessment identified the need for expanded public transportation as the number one economic issue for community residents. Transportation is of particular concern to citizens who cannot afford their own cars, who do not drive because of disability or who need caregiver support while riding on public transportation. Many of these individuals lack sufficient access to the opportunities our communities have to offer, because there is no reasonable transportation alternative available to them. Of particular concern is the lack of transportation in the smaller townships of Zebulon, Wendell, Wake Forest, Garner, Apex, Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina. Even in Raleigh, affordable senior housing locations are not always served by public transportation.
When Focus Group participants were asked about services needed to maintain independence, quality of life, and a senior friendly environment, transportation emerged as one of the top five responses to all of those questions. When seniors were asked to evaluate how well public transportation connects them to community resources, the overwhelming majority of seniors responded that transportation either does not exist or exists in such limited capacity that community resources are still difficult to access.
The North Carolina Statewide Needs Assessment Study, NCDOT 1996, found that 77% of statewide unmet transportation needs are held by elderly or disabled persons. The study projected a need for 385,416 senior trips annually in Wake County. Resources for Seniors reports that transportation ranks highest on a list of unmet needs, based on consumer requests on the Information and Assistance line.
Existing Resources and Challenges Seniors in Wake County have widely varying access to public transportation, depending on where they live. The most comprehensive system is found in Cary, and the most limited options are in Garner and Apex and the more rural parts of the county.
Transportation Availability: General Purpose
Cary: The C-Tran system offers a model for senior-friendly transportation services. Subsidized by the town of Cary, it provides transportation to all Cary residents, within the city limits of Cary for any purpose, and outside of Cary for medical and employment destinations. Prices are reasonable and service is door-to-door. Raleigh: Capital Area Transit System (CAT) currently provides 18 fixed bus routes in Raleigh, 7 fixed CAT connector routes, and 1 demand responsive service zone. Seniors may purchase bus passes at a discounted rate. For those who are unable to use the buses to reach their destination, and who have given up their driver’s license, CAT offers Accessible Raleigh Transportation (ART), which provides door-to-door cab services on a subsidized basis (roughly half-price). A more limited ART program provides additional subsidy but has more restrictive eligibility criteria. The main limitation of the ART system is that of cost – even half-price cab fare is far beyond the means of many older Raleigh residents. In addition, the service is limited to destinations within the Raleigh city limits. Rural Wake County: Seniors in some parts of the county may use the county-subsidized TRACS system, designed to bring public transportation to the more outlying areas of the county. Similar to the Cary C-Tran program, this system provides door-to-door transportation at a reasonable cost, to destinations within the service area. It can be used for any purpose. However, it is limited to four days a week as of late 2004, and the service areas do not include all parts of the county. In particular, most Apex and Garner residents remain unserved by this system, due to restrictions imposed by the funding source.
Transportation Availability: Special-Purpose Transportation Services: Wake Coordinated Transportation Service (WCTS) Administered by Wake County, this system coordinates transportation services for a number of different agencies and programs, including the following senior-specific programs. WCTS contracts with transportation vendors, and provides centralized scheduling through its Transportation Service Center. The transportation services provided are paid for through a variety of sources and agencies.
Resources for Seniors Medical Transportation Program: This program provides transportation to medical appointments only, for seniors and disabled individuals who live in the more rural areas of the county (outside Raleigh and Cary), and who have no other means of transportation. Cost is reasonable, and the service is door-to-door, with handicap-accessible vehicles available. Due to limited funding, usage is currently limited to approximately two round-trips per month per client. Destinations must be within Wake County. This service is funded as part of the Elderly and Disabled Transportation Assistance Program (EDTAP). The North Carolina Statewide Needs Assessment Study, NCDOT 1996 recommended increasing the annual statewide EDTAP funding from $3M to $12.9M to cover the relative share of un-served non-program related transportation needs statewide. The statewide allocation was increased to $5M and remains at that level for fiscal year 2005. Additionally, Wake County does not receive an allocation of these EDTAP funds for the seniors living in our incorporated areas. Medicaid Transportation: Administered by Wake County, as part of the Medicaid system, this program provides free, door-to-door transportation, to medical appointments only, for people who have full Medicaid coverage. Nutrition Transportation: Administered by Resources for Seniors, this program provides transportation to Meals on Wheels-sponsored group meal sites for the noon meal. It is available to Wake County residents over the age of 60 who live within 5 miles of one of the established sites.
Nutrition-related Transportation: Administered by Resources for Seniors, this program provides scheduled grocery-shopping trips on a twice-monthly basis to seniors living in a number of subsidized/affordable senior apartment complexes, mostly in Raleigh.
Private Transportation Resources A number of companies offer door-to-door transportation services, ranging from traditional taxi companies to services offering a personal escort to medical appointments or other destinations. These are valuable resources, but they are cost-prohibitive for many older adults.
Volunteer Transportation A great deal, probably the majority, of seniors’ transportation assistance is provided on a volunteer basis, whether by family members, friends, neighbors, church members, or other community groups. The primary organized volunteer group offering transportation to the general senior population is The Center for Volunteer Caregiving. The Center presently employs one part time transportation coordinator who works with 500 volunteers and produces 3000 round trips annual