A number of local efforts to address the specialized transportation needs of older adults and persons with disabilities will receive funding this year under a new federal program known as Enhanced Mobility.
The Transportation Planning Board approved the projects in January. A selection panel made up of local and national transportation and human service agency representatives selected the projects based on how well they would address some of the region's top unmet mobility needs, identified last year by a special TPB task force.
Among the needs identified by the task force were greater coordination of specialized transportation services and programs within and across jurisdictional boundaries, more customer-focused services and more training for providers of specialized transportation, and improved information and marketing for services that already exist.
One of the top projects selected to receive Enhanced Mobility funding this year is a new multi-jurisdictional effort led by Fairfax County to coordinate transportation services in Fairfax, Loudoun, and Arlington counties and the City of Alexandria. The project will promote collaboration among localities to reduce barriers to accessing transportation services. The project will also train neighborhood groups to help those with mobility limitations navigate the region's transit system and take advantage of specialized transportation services available in their area.
Another project selected to receive funding this year is a pilot project by the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind to develop audible maps of key Metrorail stations. The maps will help persons with visual impairments navigate the stations by audibly describing station layouts. The maps will be available online and via smartphone app.
In the District of Columbia, Yellow Cab of DC will receive Enhanced Mobility funding to expand its fleet of wheelchair-accessible taxicabs. The company launched its wheelchair-accessible taxi service in 2011 as part of rollDC, a TPB program to make wheelchair-accessible cabs available to District residents and visitors for the first time ever.
Other projects selected to receive Enhanced Mobility funding this year include improvements to the Jewish Council for the Aging's "Connect-a-Ride" transportation information program, stepped-up coordination and marketing of Montgomery County's existing specialized transportation services and programs, and vehicle acquisition by several non-profit organizations in Maryland and Virginia that provide direct transportation services to persons with limited mobility.
The TPB became responsible for selecting projects to receive funding under Enhanced Mobility after the governors of Maryland and Virginia and the mayor of the District of Columbia jointly named it as the official "designated recipient" in 2013.
In August 2014, the TPB began seeking applications for funding under the new program. More than 1,200 eligible transportation agencies, non-profit organizations, and private transportation providers were invited to submit applications. The TPB will invite applications again later this year for another round of funding.
This isn't the TPB's first time selecting projects to receive federal funding aimed at improving mobility for transportation-disadvantaged groups. Between 2007 and 2013, it awarded more than $25 million to dozens of mobility services, programs, and training efforts throughout the region under two previous federal programs, Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC) and New Freedom.
For more information about Enhanced Mobility and the TPB's role in selecting projects to receive funding, go to www.tpbcoordination.org.