AARP Introduces New Funding Strategies and Policy Recommendations for Local Specialized Transportation Services
For individuals with difficulty using fixed-route public transportation services, funding opportunities for specialized transportation are as essential to their mobility needs as they are scarce. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Public Policy Institute recently published a 92 page document “weaving together” all human service and public transportation providers, allowing communities to leverage these limited funding resources more efficiently. Weaving It Together: A Tapestry of Transportation Funding for Older Adults demonstrates how specialized transportation providers can combine federal, state and local funding to maintain and even expand quality service in their locality.
Municipalities across New Jersey and throughout the nation are facing growing demand for transportation options servicing older adults, as well as adults with physical disabilities. Although the federal government spends more than $2 billion annually on specialized transportation, state and local agencies contribute significant amounts, often going beyond the fulfillment of federal match requirements, which range from 5 to 50 percent of total program costs. Because of this trend, it is becoming increasingly important that states also provide a solid framework for coordinating specialized transportation planning and service delivery across all agencies that fund transportation.
The first 17 pages of the report outline key federal funding programs. Presently the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and the Administration for Community Living ([ACL], which now oversees the Administration on Aging) are the major sources of federal transportation funding for older adults and adults with physical disabilities. Funding varies greatly state by state, as well as within each of these funding sources. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) funds transportation services for low income veterans and/or veterans with disabilities, mostly through mileage reimbursement. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 offers indirect incentives for investment in transportation.
Through executive order Governors can mandate coordination, establish and fund committees composed of state agency representatives responsible for coordinated planning activities and tie funding to local coordination. As of December 2011, New Jersey was one of 27 states with a formal, state level coordinating council. FTA’s requirement of a “locally-developed, coordinated public transit-human services transportation plan,” coupled with efforts by the federal Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility (CCAM) provides the necessary federal policy direction for the coordination of specialized transportation services. But coordination of services can only happen at the state and local level.
In addition to funding and coordination analyses, this document also includes interviews from seven local transit providers from across the U.S. From these interviews, 10 to 45+ funding sources were identified per provider. This report’s findings also identify successful practices and make specific recommendations that are applicable to all communities. Some of these findings emphasize the importance of transit operators nurturing numerous and diverse community partnerships as well as transit managers exhibiting innovation, business judgment and community service.
The report concludes with four key recommendations. The first suggests all levels of government should increase public sector support for specialized transportation. Second, transportation providers need to reach beyond traditional funders of transportation to seek private sector and foundation support. Third, local and state actors need to enhance the coordination of specialized transportation. Forth, government agencies, in particular the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, need to make publicly available better data on the nation’s investment in specialized transportation.
Specialized transportation offers more personalized and accessible service than can
be provided through regular, fixed-route public transit. This paper explains the various transportation funding streams available from federal, state and local programs, and offers local transportation providers new ideas on potential funding sources for their communities. It also provides examples of how local and state coordination efforts can expand the reach of services funded.