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Katherine’s Walk: Day 23, June 8

June 17, 2010

I caught a late train to Washington and arrived at the Hart Senate Office Building at 10:30am for my walk with Senator Susan Collins.  Senator Collins has supported dignified senior transportation for more than a decade, first through the years of sustainable ITN model development in Greater Portland, then through the planning of the national organization, ITNAmerica, and now for the national rollout as we work to support communities across the nation.  In this year’s budget, Senator Collins has introduced a $5 million appropriation for amendments to Title IV, Section 416, of the Older Americans Act.  Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut has sponsored a similar appropriation request in the House of Representatives.

In her appropriation request Senator Collins said:
Most older Americans depend upon the private automobile for transportation.  But for older drivers with diminished capacity, driving can become difficult, or dangerous. Older people who continue to drive face the highest fatal crash risk of any group except teenagers. Those who stop driving outlive the decision by as much as ten years, and become dependent on family and friends. So great is the need for transportation options for older Americans that delegates to the December 2005 White House Conference on Aging selected it as the Conference’s third highest policy priority, ranking it ahead of reforms to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Despite this pressing need, more than half the nation’s older citizens live in communities with no public transportation, and where transit does exist, the magnitude of this need outstrips the public resources available to meet it.

Amendments to Section 416 of the 2006 reauthorization of the Older Americans Act are specifically designed to bring the principles and practices of social enterprise to senior transportation through:

  1. “volunteer driver programs;
  2. economically sustainable transportation programs; and
  3. programs that allow older individuals to transfer their automobiles to a provider of transportation services in exchange for the services”

The 416 amendments define “economically sustainable transportation” as “demand responsive transportation for older individuals—

  1. that may be provided through volunteers; and
  2. that the provider will provide without receiving Federal or other public financial assistance, after a period of not more than 5 years of providing the services under this section.”

This approach to sustainability sidesteps the creation of additional transportation services that will add to the future tax burden or compete with existing transportation providers that rely upon public funding for on-going operating expense.  Instead, funding for economically sustainable senior transportation projects uses federal funding to leverage voluntary local community support and creates, instead, social entrepreneurs who turn to consumers, their families and their business communities to build sustainable solutions that will bring private resources to bear.  Private expenditures for transportation actually outnumber public expenditures 5 to 1, so by guiding development toward private resources, Section 416 uses a small amount of public dollars to leverage a far larger pool of private resources.

To address the long term mobility needs of America’s aging population, we really do need a public/private partnership.  Neither alone will be sufficient, and neither alone will be as strong as they are together.

To support Senator Collins and Congresswoman DeLauro’s appropriation request for Section 416, contact your Senators and Congressional Representatives.

To support ITNAmerica and our work on behalf of dignified transportation for older Americans across the nation, pledge here.

(0.5 miles, 47 miles total)

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