The Transportation Planning Board recently began accepting applications for funding under a new federal program aimed at addressing the transportation needs of persons with limited mobility resulting from old age or physical or mental disability.
The new program, called Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities, was created in 2012 under MAP-21. The program makes approximately $5 million in matching federal grant funds available to the Washington region over the next two years. In 2013, the TPB was chosen by the governors of Maryland and Virginia and the mayor of the District of Columbia to be the "designated recipient" of the new funding and to be responsible for selecting projects to receive it.
In preparation for project selection, the TPB's Human Service Transportation Coordination Task Force earlier this year identified the greatest unmet transportation needs of people in the region with limited mobility. The Task Force is made up of local transportation and human service agency representatives and consumers of specialized transportation services.
Among the greatest needs identified by the Task Force were greater coordination of specialized transportation services and programs within and across jurisdictions, more customer-focused services and more training for providers of specialized transportation, and improved information and marketing for specialized transportation services that already exist.
When it began accepting applications for funding on August 28, the TPB released a list of "priority projects" highlighting the kinds of initiatives that would be most responsive to the needs identified by the Task Force. Two of the items on the list are travel training and personal mobility counseling programs to help people with limited mobility learn how to find and navigate existing transit and specialized transportation services. Another is sensitivity and customer-service training programs designed to help taxi, bus, and paratransit drivers better serve passengers with specialized transportation needs.
New shuttle or taxi services to connect individuals with nearby bus and rail transit stations and escorted "door-through-door" transportation services are also among the priority projects highlighted by the TPB.
Eligible transportation agencies, non-profit organizations, and private transportation providers will have until October 17 to submit applications for funding under Enhanced Mobility.
An independent selection panel made up of local transportation and human service agency representatives and others with expertise in transportation for people with disabilities and older adults will review and score grant applications based in part on their responsiveness to the top needs identified by the Task Force.
The selection panel will also consider a number of other criteria which focus attention on the need for coordination among various agencies, transportation services tailored to the needs of customers, and the institutional capacity of applicants to administer federal grants.
The TPB has for the last seven years awarded federal grant funding for similar initiatives under two previous federal programs: Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) and New Freedom. Under the programs, the TPB awarded more than $25 million in federal and match funding to 66 projects around the region focused on improving transportation options for persons with disabilities and individuals with low incomes.
Though Enhanced Mobility aims to address many of the same specialized transportation needs as JARC and New Freedom, new federal rules limit the types of agencies and organizations that can apply for funding as well as the types of projects that can be funded. The new rules also stipulate that applicants must provide 20% matching funds for capital or mobility management projects and 50% matching funds for ongoing operational support programs.
For more information, including a link to the dates of required pre-application conferences and more information about eligibility and how to apply for funding, go to www.tpbcoordination.org.
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