Feonix Update – May 2021

New Service, N4 Connect – Launching Soon!

N4 Connect Newsletter

In Northern Nevada, twelve counties will soon be connected literally and figuratively, thanks to a new transportation project that will create a mobility network across hundreds of miles. Feonix – Mobility Rising is teaming up with The Neighbor Network of Northern Nevada (N4) to create an enhanced, human-centered Mobility as a Service (MaaS) to increase transportation access for communities across many miles. 

This two-year project will be rooted in the process of community engagement to design a cohesive mobility network to enable Northern Nevadans to travel across the region without the additional burden of strain from a disjointed system. Utilizing MaaS as a framework, N4 Connect will connect people to places and services by easing complex transitions, resolving payment pain-points, and offering the benefits of advanced technology in favor of empowerment for individuals, caregivers, social workers, and mobility managers.

At a broader level, N4 is passionate about connecting Northern Nevadans to cultivate inclusive, community-based services, volunteer opportunities, and affordable transportation as a means of creating health and resiliency for area residents. Through the N4 Connect project partnership with Feonix, community members will be introduced to a vastly expanded network of transportation providers that enable them to travel with more freedom, support self-determination, and increase engagement with area agencies and fellow Northern Nevadans. 

Amy Dewitt-Smith, Founder and Executive Director of N4, believes that closing transportation gaps in Northern Nevada is essential to link people together and form healthy communities. Amy shares, “Now more than ever, we must ensure people are safely connected to needed goods, services, and each other. Feonix understands that it’s not just about getting a person from point A to point B, but how community access impacts a person’s overall health and wellbeing. We couldn’t be more excited about this partnership and project!”

The partnership with Feonix – Mobility Rising to deploy N4 Connect will give a strong start toward the project’s July deployment. As a nonprofit partner, Feonix will support local leaders as they develop community-led strategies to address long-term mobility challenges. Rooted in Mobility as a Service (MaaS), Feonix helps communities and partners integrate emerging technologies into local transportation ecosystems. The vision for the N4 Connect project includes:

  • A single app and online platform connecting transit providers, volunteer drivers, and human service professionals to schedule, cancel, and pay for rides.
  • Cross-agency coordination, allowing individuals to book services that involve multiple transportation providers with a single ride request.
  • A “mobility wallet” providing the ability for individuals and organizations to put funds on an account for riders to utilize across multiple transit services.

A foundational cornerstone of the project is that it will not require the transit agency to fit within a prescribed technology. Instead, it will design technology to support the local transit agencies’ success in their own community mission.

“We are incredibly excited and humbled by this opportunity to support rural MaaS and work alongside mobility leaders across northern Nevada.  Our mission is to enable technology to provide a supportive role to the goals of the community. Since the inception of the project in meeting with partners, we have learned so much from the transit agencies, senior centers, and mobility managers in designing the solution.  It is humbling to be able to serve them in creating this connectivity across agencies.” – Valerie Lefler, Executive Director.

With great anticipation, the program will launch six transit providers within the MaaS system in 2021 and 6 more in 2022. The counties in the system include Washoe, Storey, Lyon, Carson, Douglas, Pershing, Humboldt, Churchill, Elko, Lander, White Pine, and Eureka counties in Northern Nevada.

Community engagement sessions will take place quarterly to gain direction and feedback from area leaders involved with transportation, education, healthcare, economic development, social services, and employment.  The next scheduled session will take place in June 2021.

Funding for this project is made possible by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT), Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division (ADSD), and the Nevada Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC). To learn more about the design of this and other Feonix projects, visit feonixmobilityrising.org/our-work.

Improving Healthcare through Innovative Transportation Options

Access to Care infographic
Access to Care infographic

Innovating access to care for seniors, veterans, and single-parent households is the primary focus of a new project Feonix is launching in Columbia, South Carolina with The COMET public transit system, funded by the US DOT Federal Transit Administration.  

As a nation we have launched several studies and projects on addressing barriers in access to care for the estimated 5.7 million Americans who miss appointments each year due to lack of transportation. However, the role of public transit and first and last mile issues have been a mystery or rarely discussed part of the non-emergency medical transportation discussion.  

Coordination of care is essential in creating a healthcare system that can adequately and effectively serve our most vulnerable populations as a country. For example, a recent study in New York on low-income families in poverty, 55% of patients reported that following a hospital discharge, they had trouble filling the prescription. In addition, 65% of patients felt having transportation assistance with access or cost would improve medication use after hospitalization or clinics visits.  Another recent study in Ohio showed that of adults living at or below 125% of the federal poverty level, almost one-third reported that it was “hard” or “very hard” to find transportation to their health care providers.  Research also has indicated in a recent report, that of the non-driving dialysis patients who were surveyed, 16% indicated that their clinic would not accommodate them if they arrived late. In addition, 33% of non-driving patients had shortened treatment due to being late at least once over a three-month period, while 9% reported having had an appointment canceled during this time as a result of arriving late. 

These barriers are ever-present within Richland and Lexington county South Carolina in the Columbia region.  A city that has been established over 200 years also faces unique challenges with housing, transportation infrastructure, and social service demands.  Also located in the community is Fort Jackson, which is the largest and most active initial entry training center in the U.S. Army, training 50 percent of all soldiers and 60 percent of the women entering the Army each year.  Close to 3,500 civilians are employed at Fort Jackson and 45,000-plus retirees and their families receive services from the base.  Supporting our nation’s veterans with successful models in health care and access to medical services and counseling has never been more critical.  In 2012 alone, an estimated 6,500 former military personnel died by suicide. More active duty veterans, succumbed to suicide that year than were killed in combat.  The Army suffered 52% of the suicides from all branches.  

Coordinated care is essential in providing the resources and support necessary to help military personnel with mental health services and isolation and  of all the challenges they have faced — lack of transportation to get to the doctor or a peer support group — should not be a factor, when the solution is so close.

The layout of the city of Columbia provides a challenge for serving the residents with fixed-route service as so much of it is spread-out and suburban, and the location of the University downtown and Fort Jackson being located in the city – has pushed the locations for critical services into suburban or low population-dense areas.  

With all this in mind, how can public transportation evolve to have a bigger impact on these missed appointments in access to care?  

The first and last mile service integrated with Feonix’s program is supported by the AARP Ride@50+SM Program Mobility as a Service (Maas) technology.  Built on the Mobility as a Service framework, the Ride@50+ Program technology, in combination with the first and last mile service, will provide excellent support in assisting individuals in utilizing the fixed route service and increasing ridership and also reducing cost for health care facilities as well as patients.   In Richland county alone, there are over 51,000 seniors and 24,000 female head of household homes with children under age 18.  In addition, there are 33,000 veterans, 8,000 of which are disabled requiring supportive services on a regular ongoing basis.  

In addition to launching a new service, the project will focus on educating social workers, case managers, and care coordinators on how to use public transit and knowing how to book first/last mile services to support the patient. Knowing there is a bus and knowing how to schedule trips with the patient’s mobility needs in consideration are two different things. This project will demystify transit and mobility needs for many professionals, which will support improvement in outcomes and service delivery for patients and passengers.  

We look forward to sharing lessons learned and insights about the pilot and feedback from the public transit agency, patients, and healthcare professionals. If you do not already receive monthly Feonix newsletter updates, be sure to sign up below to get our latest updates direct delivered to your inbox!!

Michigan Ride Paratransit, Making the Ride Easier

Michigan Ride Paratransit User Quote Graphic

“It gives me a lot of time back for myself.”

Taking care of one’s self is essential in order to provide care for a loved one. When caregivers are overtaxed or stretched too thin, multiple people feel the strain. As a community, we share in the struggle that stems from our neighbors bearing a heavy burden.

A new mobility app, Michigan Ride Paratransit, facilitates for Detroit area paratransit users and their caregivers to manage transportation needs without sacrificing the time and energy that are necessary to fully engage in daily living. The new app is designed to resolve accessibility issues that extend beyond the vehicle to include the request and coordination of paratransit services. Through increased ease of use and self-determination, users will experience the transformative power of mobility equity for every person in every community.

Nioka and her aunt have been testing the newly developed app for several months. Before Michigan Ride Paratransit, Nioka spent hours arranging for her aunt’s weekly transportation needs through the paratransit system. Organizing all of the travel necessary for a healthy, productive week is tricky due to the limited availability of rides, complex connection points, and hours on hold. Riders and their caregivers surrender a lot of time to the process of coordinating essential rides. Nioka and her aunt have successfully juggled this system. But there can be a strain that comes with the experience.

Nioka is a full-time nurse. Her work is as essential as her aunt’s medical appointments. Committed to her family and her job, Nioka utilizes every minute to make things happen. She has been able to arrange for her aunt’s transportation. But the time required has been an added stressor. Until now. Until the Michigan Ride Paratransit app.

Feonix – Mobility Rising has partnered with Southeast Michigan’s Regional Transit Authority to innovate a user-friendly, inclusive smartphone app that empowers paratransit users and caregivers to arrange for their transportation needs. The project team also includes:

  • Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA)
  • Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT)
  • Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART)
  • Menlo Innovations
  • Kyyti Group

The app enhances the paratransit experience by allowing individuals to request and track rides using an interface that is accessible. This systemic improvement supports ease of paratransit use and makes it possible for users to spend more time engaging with area resources.  The time spent on hold to schedule a ride is gone. Passengers and their caregivers can schedule a ride via the app on their time, when it makes sense in their day, feeling stronger, more independent. More resilient. 

As Nioka shares, “it gives me the power…. the ability to schedule the appointment for my aunt. I can go on at any time… I am not on hold for an extended period of time. I like the ability to be able to schedule. It gives me a lot of time back for myself.”

Nioka is not alone. During the initial beta-testing phase last fall, one mother reported incredible relief from the ease in scheduling rides for her adult daughter’s weekly paratransit schedule. “We don’t have to wait on hold for a zillion minutes.” Increased accessibility led to increased independence for her daughter, who has now taken over more of her own scheduling. The rides are also visible through the app, confirming the successful completion of trips. This convenience and reassurance are priceless in the mind of a parent. The independence is invaluable for the passenger.

Throughout the app’s development, caregivers and passengers have provided the project team with feedback that will continue to optimize Michigan Ride Parantransit to be even more empowering to those who utilize it. In its fullest success, the app will lead to reduced wait times, fewer cancellations, and better on-time performance – a gift to riders, caregivers, schedulers, and drivers.

As the project moves out of the beta-testing phase, a website has fully launched, and additional users will begin to utilize the service. The  user-friendly reservation process, status updates, and fewer pain points while waiting for a ride will make all the difference in the world. And the important work of dedicated caregivers will become more manageable. For Nioka it already has, “it makes things so much easier!”

That’s the idea. From beginning, to middle, to end, providing a stress free experience for transit users is essential to mobility equity. To learn more about how Michigan Ride Paratransit can re-shape the accessibility conversation, visit our project page at feonixmobilityrising.org. To visit the platform’s website, visit michiganrideparatransit.org.

Feonix in the News

>>  Feonix Community Development Manager, Alison Petersen, was “on the air” on WEMU, 89.1, a community NPR station. Listen here!

>>  Read about Feonix’s recent board appointments and expansion in our recent press release

 >>  Feonix Executive Director, Valerie Lefler, will be a panelist for the Smart Mobility – Making Equitable and Inclusive Connections session at the ITS Canada Virtual 2021 Conference on June 22, 2021.

You can check our News & Press Page in between updates to see the good Feonix is doing!