Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority Awarded $250,000 Grant for Pilot Project to Enhance Transportation Options to Healthcare Services
COLUMBIA, S.C., July 9, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Columbia-area operator of mass transportation, The COMET, will help more residents get to the doctor and other medical appointments, thanks to a competitive $250,000 grant awarded to Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority. With the kick-off of the pilot program, The COMET will offer shuttle service to bus stops throughout Lexington and Richland counties to help residents complete important healthcare-related trips.
Access to medical care is essential, and many area residents face barriers that prevent them from traveling that first or last few miles to the bus stop. According to the Central Midlands Council of Governments, 26 of the 38 COMET routes are within a ¼-mile radius of one of the 14 hospital facilities and 13 dialysis centers in the service area. This pilot program would fill the gap between these short-distances and provide insights on shuttle services as a solution for transportation barriers.
The COMET pilot program was selected as one of 37 projects awarded under the Federal Transit Administration's Access and Mobility Partnership Grants to pilot new and innovative mobility models in enhancing access to care. This pilot will feature the collaboration of several innovative organizations both locally and nationally to further its goal of becoming a "Mobility Agency," according to John Andoh, Executive Director & CEO of The COMET.
Feonix – Mobility Rising will be one of those collaborators, recruiting volunteer drivers who will operate the shuttles to and from bus stops.
"When you do not feel well, or you are in pain, walking a mile to the bus stop is often out of the question," said Valerie Lefler, Feonix's Executive Director. "The COMET is the most affordable transportation option and our volunteers' mission is to help those traveling to medical appointments get to the bus easier, so they are not canceling those essential medical appointments and are able to get to the doctor the most affordable way possible. We look forward to help facilitate The COMET pilot's goals."
Shuttles will be arranged regionally throughout the two-county area and hours of operation will complement The COMET's hours of service. Area residents or healthcare professionals will be able schedule and book rides via computer, phone call or a mobile application through the AARP Ride@50+℠ Program, developed by AARP Driver Safety and powered by Feonix – Mobility Rising. In addition to rides on the shuttle service, rides on the bus and to medical or other coordinated care appointments can also be booked through the platform.
Additional organizations in The COMET's pilot program planning team include the United Way of the Midlands, the Columbia VA Healthcare System, South Carolina Oncology Associates, and the Kappa Lambda Chi Military Fraternity Inc.
About The COMET
The COMET is a service of the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority and provides countywide public transit services on 38 fixed routes, two ReFlex services, with a vanpool service, subsidy programs with Lyft and Uber, 10 bikeshare stations in Columbia and DART ADA complementary paratransit service throughout Richland and eastern Lexington Counties. The COMET transports approximately 2.8 million passenger trips a year on a fleet of 81 buses and vans. Transit services are provided under contract with Transdev Service, Inc of Lombard, Illinois.
About Feonix – Mobility Rising
Headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, Feonix is a national non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing mobility options for vulnerable and underserved individuals. Using innovative technology, education, training, and volunteer driver programs Feonix is breaking down barriers in access to healthcare, employment, education, and social services.
May 2, 2019 | Lincoln, NE, Feonix – Mobility Rising is celebrating their 1-year anniversary by launching a new program called Mobility by Design, which will allow rural and small urban communities to affordably expand their mobility options and deploy Mobility as a Service (MaaS)
Feonix, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, is dedicated to enhancing mobility for vulnerable and underserved communities – seniors, veterans, refugees, families in crisis, and individuals with disabilities. Feonix also specializes in launching volunteer driver programs to fill in the gaps in existing services.
Feonix works with local leaders to deploy and coordinate transportation options for:
- enhancing access to healthcare – reducing missed appointments,
- expanding employment opportunities - filling jobs, and
- increasing educational opportunities – giving college and high school student more options.
Feonix supports rural hospitals and medical clinics, departments of economic development, colleges, and city administrators in filling the transportation gaps for those most in need. “We are dedicated to serving communities and creating the mobility ecosystems necessary for their residents to thrive. Our Mobility as a Service (MaaS) one stop shop transportation solution enhances independence for individuals who are unable to drive and saves time and stress for social workers, case managers, and nurses in supporting their clients.” says Executive Director and Founder, Valerie Lefler.
Headquartered in the heart of America in Lincoln, NE, Feonix’s reach encompasses 5 states, and their team includes 14 purpose-driven leaders from across the country.
Together, in just their first year, the Feonix team has facilitated the design, planning and implementation of projects in communities ranging in size from 800 to 800,000 including,
* Launching trip booking technology with HealthTran, a program of the Missouri Rural Health Association, to support volunteers and public transit agencies for 3 Federally Qualified Health Centers in Missouri,
* Creating innovative technology and training “Feonix – Connect” for public transit fixed and paratransit services with Ann Arbor Michigan’s public transit system, TheRide. This program is funded by the Mobility Challenge Grant program with the Michigan Dept of Transportation.
* Launching rural Mobility as a Service “Winnebago Catch A Ride,” focused on filling in the gaps in employment and healthcare transportation for Winnebago County, Wisconsin with the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, supported by Easter Seals.
* Piloting Mobility as a Service technology with the Coastal Plains Community Center in the Coastal Bend of Texas, with support from the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center, Coastal Bend Center for Independent Living, and Area Agency on Aging of the Coastal Bend.
“Since the inception of Feonix, our board and leadership team have strived to not only make a difference, and to bring cutting edge innovation to the table with programs that have been around for decades, such as volunteer driving,” said Flora Castillo, Feonix Board President & Chair. “We know firsthand the value of having accessible, reliable and affordable mobility options, and Valerie’s leadership and creativity has been instrumental in our accomplishments for our first year in operation,” continued Flora.
Mobility by Design (MBD) is about enhancing transportation options to improve quality of life and public health in small urban and rural communities. Lefler states, “We are taking best practices from across the globe alongside our expertise in expanding mobility in communities, and week by week, deploying the latest technology, community engagement models, marketing techniques, and accessibility programs, all while learning from each other, and lifting each other up.”
In some communities, MBD participants may be starting from scratch – not a single bus, taxi, or transportation provider in sight, and we will help them build from the ground up a mobility ecosystem that meets their needs. Other communities may have 15 mobility options, but none of them work together, or they have institutional silos that leave gaps in service. Mobility by Design will provide expertise, technology, and a framework to break down these barriers – as well as peer support from other community leaders across the country tackling the same issues.
Feonix will be hosting 2 live webinars “7 Steps to Launch Mobility as a Service” in May to introduce the MBD program and demonstrate the MaaS Technology. Individuals can learn more and sign-up online.
“Our first year’s success would not have been possible without the hard work, time, and talent of our team. Their passion and dedication to improving the quality of lives in the communities we support is what drives us every day,” stated Lefler
Using public transportation can be incredibly intimidating, especially for those with hearing and vision impairments. Feonix - Mobility Rising and its partners, the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (TheRide) and Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living (AACIL) are setting out to create supportive technology providing step-by-step assistance for people with disabilities in navigating transit. Using the state-of-the-art locational platform, what3words, Feonix is developing an app, called “Connect,” that will provide turn by turn audio and visual directions for passengers navigating the public transportation, as well as nuanced information most helpful for people with disabilities.
“We are incredibly honored to partner with TheRide , the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living, and what3words to tackle this challenge impacting millions of Americans and their quality of life,” says Valerie Lefler, Feonix Executive Director. “It’s an amazing opportunity to work with such innovative, passionate, and driven leaders in the community. Their dedication has been clear since we launched our project together, when within just three weeks we had three full focus groups with 25 staff and transportation operators in place, despite record-cold temperatures and ice on a day that shut down the local schools.”
“New mobility tech like Feonix’s Connect app are needed now more than ever,” adds Julia Roberts, TheRide Regional Planner “By helping customers to age in place with increasing rates of visual, hearing, and other cognitive impairments, TheRide can aid in improving each individual’s transport experience, as well as the quality of life for their family, friends, and community.”
The aging population in the Ann Arbor area and across the country are growing at unprecedented rates, especially as baby boomers retire. Specifically, with regard to vision and hearing disabilities, the 2016 US Census indicated that:
- 7.5 million Americans identify as having “significant vision loss,” encompassing both near or total blindness, and “trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses.”
- 11.5 million individuals report significant hearing difficulty.
“There are accelerating advances around mobile devices and apps,” says Will Purves, Director of Planning and Special Projects for the AACIL. “To be able to leverage the most advanced technology to improve lives for people with disabilities is incredibly important. And improving the transportation experience for those with disabilities, particularly those with vision and hearing impairments who rely heavily on public systems, is a tremendous opportunity.”
The what3words technology will be utilized with the “Connect” app, will enable users to gain three meter accuracy to pick-up or drop off locations for fixed and paratransit service- providing a better experience and less stress for both passengers and drivers. Traditionally, addresses can cover an entire block or even several acres. With what3words, users can precisely schedule pickups and drop-offs at a specific entrance, landmark, or facility.
Arriving ‘somewhere near’ a destination is just not good enough. Travelers deserve to be able to reach the precise location that they want to go, stress-free.” says Ashley Cashion, what3words VP USA. “what3words has given every 10ft x 10ft square in the world a unique 3 word address. We are thrilled to be working with the Feonix and TheRide to make it simpler for individuals to get to where they want to go, using just 3 words”
The project is set to launch the prototype for demonstration this summer and is expected to be released in the app stores this fall. Feonix plans to bring this innovative technology to public transit agencies across the U.S. and around the world.
This collaboration and project is made possible by the Michigan Department of Transportation as part of their Mobility Challenge grant program.
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