NWCOG gets $130K for transit manager
Summit Daily News
With better transportation among the highest-priority needs for seniors in the mountain region, Summit and its neighboring counties may soon see a new one-call coordinated transit system for seniors, veterans and disabled individuals.
“This is a coordination project … designed to provide transportation services for disabled or low-income individuals who need to get to places where we don’t have service,” said Summit Stage director John Jones, who was involved in organizing the project.
The Northwest Council of Governments (NWCOG), which is heading the project, plans to use a recently awarded $130,000 federal grant to hire a “mobility manager” who will create a coordinated regional transit system which will provide specific service to elderly, disabled, low-income and veteran populations.
“This mobility manager would coordinate trips amongst our various systems to get the people to us or just plain take the people where they’ve got to go,” Jones said.
The mobility manager will run the one-call system, which will provide specialized transportation by volunteer vehicle or taxi when necessary in addition to coordinating with existing transit systems. The project will make Denver, Grand Junction and other parts of the northwestern region accessible to individuals living in “outlying areas.”
“It’s a huge job,” Jones said.
A billing structure through Medicaid – also to be established by the new mobility manager – will help cover administrative costs for regional transit providers, like the Summit Stage.
The $130,000 grant will primarily pay for the mobility manager’s position. NWCOG applied for another $250,000 grant from the Federal Transit Authority to be used for capital costs associated with the system. NWCOG officials said they expect to find out whether the second grant was awarded by November. If the funding comes through, the system could be up and running as soon as the latter half of next year.
The coordinated regional system – which will be available to residents of Summit County and the nine other counties in the Northwest Council of Governments’ region – is intended to fill in where existing transit systems leave off.
“It’s more specifically to get you to Denver or to get people from Kremmling to Silverthorne,” NWCOG director Pam Caskie said. “Not to say that we will turn people away that are intra-transit region, but they’ve got a pretty good system worked out and we’ll depend on the existing system to take care of that. What we’ll focus on is getting people outside of the region to where they need to go.”
The mobility manager will staff the Regional Coordinating Council. The council was created as part of the “Seniors in our Mountain Communities” project, which identifies key gaps in services for aging populations in the mountain resort areas.
In analysis done over the last two years, a lack of safe and affordable transportation has been identified as an ongoing problem for seniors in the region.
The new mobility manager will work to address the problem by creating and maintaining an inventory of regional human and transit service agencies and will continue analysis of the transit needs in each area.
Of senior-service providers and public and elected officials surveyed in the region, 86 percent ranked transportation among the highest priority services for seniors and 21 percent said transportation services were most needed in their community.
Summit County’s seniors currently represent only about 7 percent of the total population, according to NWCOG data, but the population is expected to increase three-fold by 2035.
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