Many Americans have difficulty accessing some of their basic needs because they must rely on transportation services provided for seniors, persons with disabilities and the economically disadvantaged which are often fragmented, unreliable and inefficiently operated. Lack of coordination is leading obstacle to meeting the mobility needs of the people who need the services most. The goal of the Mobility Services for All Americans (MSAA) initiative was to improve transportation services and simplify access to employment, healthcare, education and other community activities by means of ITS technology. The MSAA program began in FY 2005; it was created as part of the United We Ride national campaign that implements the Executive Order on Human Service Transportation Coordination (#13330) issued by President George W. Bush in February 2004.
On March 12, 2010, four rural transit agencies in and around Paducah, Kentucky held a Grand Opening for their Travel Management Coordination Center (TMCC), as part of the Mobility Services for All Americans (MSAA) Initiative, a component of the USDOT-funded Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Program.
There are 62 federal programs that fund transportation services for the transportation disadvantaged. The February 2004 Presidential Executive Order on Human Service Transportation Coordination (Executive Order 13330) requested the establishment of the Federal Interagency Transportation Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility (CCAM) to enhance accessibility and mobility for persons who are transportation disadvantaged, especially individuals with low-incomes, people with disabilities, and older Americans. This Council is chaired by the Secretary of Transportation with representation from 11 executive departments or agencies of the Federal government. The Executive Order requires all federal agencies to work together to enhance transportation access, minimize duplication of federal services and facilitate the most appropriate, cost-effective transportation for older adults, people with disabilities and low-income populations.
The Transportation Problem
Currently, due to inefficiencies, limited resources, and a lack of coordination, delivery of human services transportation is challenging. In many locations, human services transportation is fragmented, resulting in service area gaps (geographical areas where service is not provided) or limited service area size due to an absence in trip transfers between transportation providers. Often, customers have to contact multiple case workers for multiple funding programs, trip requests have to be made well in advance, scheduled trip times are inconvenient, pick-up wait times are long and difficult to estimate, trip travel times are long, and accessibility to transit for seniors and persons with disabilities is limited.
The Mobility Services for All Americans initiative was built upon several past and current USDOT-led activities, including the USDOT’s United We Ride Program, to increase mobility and accessibility for the transportation disadvantaged and the general public, and achieve more efficient use of federal transportation funding resources through technology integration and service coordination.
The key to effective and efficient coordination is integrating ITS technologies into a physical or virtual Travel Management Coordination Center (TMCC) that networks all parties together and uses ITS technologies that are tested and proven and have demonstrated significant benefits and return on investment, including:
- Fleet scheduling, dispatching, and routing systems;
- Integrated fare payment and management (payment, collection, and processing) systems;
- Better traveler information and trip planning systems, particularly for customers with accessibility challenges; and
- Advanced GIS and demand-response systems to provide door-to-door service.
A successful TMCC provides benefits to:
- Customers with simplified, one-stop access to unified travel support services-one call via any technology to arrange for transportation services.
- Human service agencies with the ability to coordinate transportation needs across service providers and modes, considering fare structures extending customer service across wider geographic areas.
- Transportation Providers with a method for matching schedules and capacity with requests; an ability to efficiently process financial transactions; an opportunity to eliminate redundancies; and tools to ensure security and customer eligibility to use the system.
The newly enhanced transportation resource call center has added customer-oriented features, such as automated telephone and Internet-based trip reservations and management, and has expanded its transportation resources to four counties in the Aiken, SC region that previously had no access to transportation services. Click on the image to watch an introductory video on the new Travel Management Coordination Center. More>>
The ITS Opportunity
New capabilities and opportunities are being created in both the transportation and health and human services communities through the use of emerging technologies and innovative services. However, the two communities are often unaware of the research, new approaches, and advances that each is making, and neither may have direct communication with the transportation disadvantaged community at large.
The USDOT ITS Joint Program Office launched the MSAA initiative as a way to bring all communities together to provide a coordinated effort and apply technological solutions to the barriers to accessibility and mobility for the transportation disadvantaged.
Embracing the notions of inter-agency coordination and cooperation and technology integration, this initiative adopted a five-phase approach with two embedded go/no-go decision points to advance the quality and efficiency of human service transportation (HST) delivery. These five phases were:
- Phase 1: Coalition building
- Phase 2: Foundation research
- Phase 3: Planning and design of ITS-enhanced HST
- Phase 4: Deployment and evaluation of ITS-enhanced HST models
- Phase 5: Documentation and outreach
Research Findings and Important Results
The MSAA Initiative has developed eight innovative approaches to coordinating and delivering human services transportation. In developing TMCC concepts of operations and system designs, the sites varied in their visions:
- The major area of emphasis for all sites was customer service. All sites envisioned a system that provides an easy means (e.g., one-stop) for customers to get information about the transportation services available to them.
- Six of the eight sites felt that the TMCC gave them the ability to serve more clients.
- Two sites specifically focused on expanded service to provide better transportation to jobs for those who need it.
- The operational benefits of the TMCC were the second major area of emphasis. Most sites expect to realize efficiencies through, for example, elimination of duplication in paperwork or services. Themes of centralization and coordination were apparent in the responses of sites in terms of enhanced service delivery or unified billing. Only one site said it expected a reduction in costs.
- Four sites emphasized the role of the providers, expecting the TMCC to enable more providers, especially small operators, to be involved in human services transportation.
- One site considered coordinated services as a key component for emergency evacuations.
- All sites saw the TMCC as a means for taking a regional or inter-county approach to coordinating transportation.
The process of engaging local stakeholders in the TMCC system design has generated a higher degree of awareness of ITS within the human services field and has generated some early efficiencies in the delivery of transportation services.
Some observations from the implementing agencies include:
- Increased staff productivity;
- Integrated point of access for traveler support;
- Improved fleet scheduling, dispatching, and routing;
- Streamlined reporting, billing, and financial transactions;
- Simplified fare payment, collection, and processing;
- Enhanced traveler information and travel management capability with accessibility features; and
- Ability to address last-minute requests and cancellations without significant effort or inefficiencies.
The MSAA Initiative has provided a platform that has effectively raised stakeholder awareness and excitement about the human services-transportation coordination opportunities.
- Project site meetings attract active participation from State and local government decision-makers, transportation operators, human service agencies, and clients.
- Elected officials are attending meetings and offering their support to the MSAA teams.
- Industry vendors actively participate and contribute their expertise.
Supervisory Transportation Program Manager
Federal Transit Administration