Newsroom | Making Transportation Available to All Ages: Can It Really Happen?

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Arizona shares age-friendly best practices with Texas delegation.

Arizona shares age-friendly best practices with Texas delegation

Age Friendly Arizona, Transportation

Man assisting older woman out of carArizona’s older adult population has increased more than 24 percent in recent years, meaning it is more important than ever to ensure residents of all ages and abilities have access to the transportation they need.  Being able to get to the grocery store, doctor’s office, or to visit friends and family is vital to the quality of life for all, but accessing rides may be especially challenging for older adults. The ability to access transportation also helps them stay in their own homes and engaged with their communities.

The region saw even greater growth in the number of older adults. According to Census data, Phoenix metro saw a growth of 26.5 percent in population 65 years and older over the past five years (2014-2019).  This was an 8.9 percent higher growth rate than the national average.

With the support of the St. David’s Foundation, a delegation from Bastrop County Cares (BCC) and the Central Texas region visited the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) on January 19-21, 2022. View agendaThey heard from a variety of Arizona experts, including elected officials, regional government associations, transportation agencies, philanthropy, nonprofit rural transportation providers, and state and federal transportation authorities. The groups discussed ways to improve transportation in rural areas, especially for those who are older or who have disabilities.

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Avondale Mayor Kenneth Weise addresses the group during the reception.“MAG is becoming a nationally recognized leader in this space, and the discussion was broad and insightful,” said MAG Vice Chair Kenneth Weise, mayor of Avondale. “We also came away from the table with new knowledge and an understanding of the value of partnerships to improve the way we approach transportation planning that accommodates all of our region’s residents.”

Key takeaways from the event included:

  • We are in a period of opportunity for rural transportation. The recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) will provide $550 billion over fiscal years 2022 through 2026 in new federal investment in infrastructure, including in roads, bridges, and mass transit, water infrastructure, resilience, and broadband.
  • The Act also allows local and regional governments to directly apply for funding in ways that are more flexible than in the past.
  • Transportation is a key issue because it touches so many of the areas of need, including access to health care, access to training and employment, and the reduction in social isolation.
  • The key to successful rural transportation is to integrate it into a robust set of services for older people and people with disabilities. As one provider put it, “we need to make sure we are people people, and not just bus people.”
  • A successful transportation program must include not only a useful set of transportation options, but also a strong outreach program to those who need it, including ways to help them feel comfortable using the services.
  • While funding remains fragmented, it is possible to provide services even to those who are quite isolated by incorporating government support with support from health care providers and private funding.
     

Organizations participating in the three-day event included:

Arizona - Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services, Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, City of Avondale, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Freedom Express/Foundation for Senior Living, Maricopa Association of Governments, Northern Arizona Council of Governments, Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transit Authority, Rural Transportation Advisory Council, SouthEastern Arizona Governments Organization, Verde Valley Caregivers Coalition, and the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.

Texas – Area Agency on Aging, Bastrop County, Capital Area Council of Governments, Capital Area Planning Council, Capital Area Rural Transportation System, Family Crisis Center, Older Wise Leaders, and the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin.

View speaker bios

The delegation came away from the site visit with a strong sense of optimism.

“We are living in magical times,” said Debbie Bresette, executive director of Bastrop County Cares. “I think anything is possible right now.”

Debbie Bresette addresses the group during the reception.


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Published February 7, 2022

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