Earlier this year, the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) approved nearly $8 million in funding for a slate of 21 projects to address the transportation needs of older adults and persons with disabilities across metropolitan Washington. The projects are made possible by the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) Enhanced Mobility Program, a relatively new program which provides funding for travel trainings, volunteer driver programs, transportation voucher programs, wheelchair accessible taxis, and vehicle acquisitions.
Getting the projects up and running takes nearly two years. After a careful selection process and TPB concurrance, a project must also be reviewed and approved by the FTA. Lynn Winchell-Mendy, a transportation planner at COG, plays a central role in guiding grantees through this process, as well as for other programs such as Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) and New Freedom.
“I really enjoy interacting with our grantees,” said Winchell-Mendy, who aids local governments and organizations with everything from budgeting for their projects, to troubleshooting unanticipated hitches, to navigating the extensive FTA requirements.
Winchell-Mendy knows exactly what the process is like for a grantee—she’s done it. She previously managed grant programs at the area’s Jewish Council for Aging, including a grant administered by COG for a travel training program. She has also aided national agencies on aging and non-profit organizations with developing and implementing transportation projects through her work at the National Center on Senior Transportation, a program of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) and Easter Seals. She began her career in aging and disability as a professional guardian.
“My favorite part was being able to visit clients, interacting with them, and ensuring that their dignity and wishes were respected even though they may have lost some capacity.”
Winchell-Mendy is excited about the progress she has seen in her field. In the early part of her career, she says, mobility management was “just a buzz word.” Today, organizations like COG are planning for and supporting transportation projects that get seniors and individuals with disabilities where they need to go.
The first round of projects approved by the FTA under the Enhanced Mobility program will launch this spring, and she is looking forward to the opportunity to visit the grantees and see firsthand what the programs are doing for people in the region. She also hopes to spread the word about these important projects and their benefits to the region through increased publicity and authoring case studies.
“I have dedicated my career to serving seniors and those with disabilities, and although I’m not directly providing the assistance, I’m proud that the work I do provides the support necessary to keep people mobile, out in their communities, and independent. Transportation is a huge part of that. It’s an important part of the work that we do for the region.”
In addition to her work at COG, Winchell-Mendy is a mom of two boys—ages five and ten—and enjoys practicing yoga.