People with disabilities have three potential sources of community-based transport: paratransit services provided by public transit agencies, those provided by myriad social and human service agency providers as well as municipal organizations, and those provided by the private sector. More and more the focus is on volunteer service organizations within the private sector.
With limited resources, volunteer organizations are cost efficient and effective in filling the transportation gaps for those encumbered by disabilities. Volunteer transporters are members of communities whose neighbors, friends or family members need a ride to medical services, social events, grocery shopping, even employment opportunities. They are mindful of rider accommodations, destinations, safety and timeliness. Volunteer transport is the underpinning source for partnerships engaged in community connectivity.
The availability of accessible and affordable transportation options is a top concern for Northwest Valley Connect, (NVC) a nonprofit organization that services seniors 65 years and older, those with disabilities and veterans in west valley communities. Access to transportation is a key determinant of whether an individual can live independently, at home and in the community. It is a given fact that older adults want to remain in their homes for as long as possible, yet this can only occur if transportation needs are met. Volunteer transportation programs, such as NVC are one solution to fill the transportation gaps in our communities.
NVC volunteer transportation services is not a new approach to alternative transportation, but a community-based service that has received recognition over a short span of existence because of its role in supporting the health and well-being of older adults and people with disabilities. For many of the target population NVC is their only means of transit mobility. Two paid staff and 70 volunteers provide a range of services to community members. NVC serviced 12,500 call requests in 2018 and the volunteer transport service provided 11,000 rides. The number of Surprise ride request for 2018 was 1.703 and 1,667 were provided by NVC volunteer drivers who assumed the cost of service and may not be Surprise residents. Each of the riders is disabled and not necessarily low income. The demand for rider service is growing. In addition, NVC subsidizes the cost for its accessible vans that accommodate wheel chair individuals. One of the chief attractions of this transportation option for those with disabilities is the one-on-one service provided. The key to the accomplishments of NVC volunteer transportation services is the customize service and delivery methods regarding the circumstances and needs of rider participants and those of the communities. NVC rider surveys indicate both older adults and younger adults with disabilities express high interest in using NVC services.
NVC does what it does best which are mobility services designed to address the needs of individuals with disabilities and community transportation gaps. NVC is an alternative transport solution which is volunteer nonprofit and not to be construed with government transit organizations, Valley Metro Dial-a-Ride, Ride Choice, or private sector businesses such as taxis or shared ride services identified as Lyft or Uber.
Foundations and limited federal, state, and local governments are NVC sources of funding along with passenger donations and in-kind contributions. Federal section 5310 mobility manager funding provides for the administration of NVC program services.
Collaborative efforts by NVC are a priority for engaging community officials, planners, service providers, businesses and residents as stakeholders in the gambit of transportation solutions for those with disabilities needing a ride and the sustainability of quality for communities.
Northwest Valley Connect is connecting our community with transportation solutions. For more information, to volunteer or to donate call 623-282-9300 or visit www.northwestvalleyconnect.org. Trudy Ware – firstname.lastname@example.org