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The need to improve mobility for people with disabilities has grown in recent years and all demographic indicators point to more growth in the near and long-term future. Coordination of services has been talked about, studied, and implemented for the last 20 years. A new concept has grown out of coordination, and is called coordinated mobility or mobility management (the two terms are used interchangeably). This model makes better use of existing resources, focusing on the needs of the customer rather than on the resources of the agency, studying all the possible solutions, and matching resources with demand. The Federal Transit Administration is working hard to make mobility management a reality and, with funds newly available through the Transportation Equity Act of 2005: Legacy for Users, can advance its implementation.
In a time when human service agencies are experiencing budget cuts, it is imperative that all transportation alternatives for those whom they serve be researched for appropriateness. Mobility management is a process that agencies can use to stretch their budgets, maintain service quality, and expand options that meet the needs of individuals with disabilities.
Mobility management is an approach to transportation that maximizes resources through collaboration between transit providers and other agencies and organizations, with an emphasis on meeting user needs and providing alternatives to the single-occupant automobile. It uses all of the community resources to meet the demand for service, including not just public transit systems but also volunteers, private nonprofit organizations, and businesses such as taxi services.
There are four sociological phenomena that require human service and transportation professionals to work smart and collaborate with partners in meeting the demand for community transportation services:
Why mobility management? First and foremost it is good business practice to maximize available resources. And second, as the population ages and as more persons with disabilities become increasingly involved in community activities, the demand for services will increase. To meet that growing demand with reduced budgets requires a new way of thinking.
In the mobility management model, transportation agencies serve as mobility managers in their locales. They are attuned to both the macro environment – which includes land use planning, transportation planning, service provision, and utilization of existing resources – and the micro environment – which focuses on the needs of the individual transportation users. Overall, the mobility manager focuses on the needs of the customers and is charged to help identify transportation options for those who do not drive. By focusing on the individual, specific needs can be met and unnecessary services eliminated.
Most transportation planning has been conducted on the macro level; as one individual said, “That’s why it is called mass transit.” The federal agency that funds transit agencies was formerly called the Urban Mass Transit Administration, now Federal Transit Administration. In the past, many transit systems provided mainly fixed route service and missed the micro view. By also taking a micro view, mobility management focuses on individual needs by using all available resources and matching need with resources, infusing an individualized customer focus into transportation planning and services.
The use of technology, in conjunction with policy and procedural changes, can enhance mobility management. This technology is used by mobility managers in fulfilling their responsibilities, with the capital for its purchase funded by federal, state, and local government, and user fees paying the operating costs. Some of the technology that is available is as follows:
In addition to the uses of technology discussed above there are many other non-traditional approaches that have been available for many years, but have never been fully utilized. These include:
A federal initiative called United We Ride (www.unitedweride.gov) is providing a framework for states and communities to use in assessing their degree of coordination in human service transportation and developing action plans to improve mobility. As creative people looking for ways to increase community access by persons with disabilities we must be advocates for transportation solutions, such as mobility management, that better serve the customer through service coordination. To advocate for transportation services that improve mobility for all – a universal transportation system – is the ultimate solution, and mobility management is a way to move in that direction.
Agency Council on Coordinated Transportation. (2005). Volunteer drivers: A guide to best practices. Retrieved 7/27/05 from www.wsdot.wa.gov/Transit/Training/vdg/.
Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA). (2005). Retrieved 7/27/05 from http://www.ctaa.org/ntrc/is_rural.asp.
James McLary is principal with McLary Management, Dumfries, Virginia. He may be reached at 703/590-3361 or email@example.com.
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Retrieved from the Web site of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota (http://ici.umn.edu). Citation: Gaylord, V., Abeson, A., Bosk, E., Timmons, J., & Lazarus, S. (Eds.). (2005). Impact: Feature Issue on Meeting Transportation Needs of Youth and Adults with Developmental Disabilities 18(3). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration. Available at http://ici.umn.edu/products/impact/183/default.html.
The PDF version of this Impact, with photos and graphics, is also online at http://ici.umn.edu/products/impact/183/183.pdf.
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