Every two years the TPB selects and awards federal grant funding to projects throughout the region aimed at improving mobility for older adults and persons with disabilities. Each selection is very competitive–this year the TPB received grant applications totaling $13 million in requests–over two times the federal funding available.
At its January meeting the TPB approved $6 million in funding for 17 local and regional grants through the Federal Transit Administration’s Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Program. The goal of the Enhanced Mobility program is to improve mobility by removing barriers to make it easier to get around and expanding transportation options.
While the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments manages the projects and administers the grant, the TPB’s role is twofold. First, it develops the Human Services Coordination Plan that provides the implementation framework and priorities for the program. Second, it solicits and selects the projects to receive funding.
The Enhanced Mobility program provides the TPB a unique opportunity to select and fund operating and capital projects that advance the Coordinated Plan it develops. Since 2012, the program has funded over 50 projects totaling $20 million—including this year’s 17 projects.
The program provides matching grants for non-profit organizations, local governments, transit agencies, and private for-profit providers to expand or increase access to transportation for older adults and individuals with disabilities.
Of the 17 projects, nine are for purchasing new vehicles and will provide a total of 68 vans and buses to agencies serving older adults and people with disabilities. Among those, Metro was awarded a $1.5 million grant for 22 new MetroAccess vehicles to replace a portion of its fleet. This will help the 43,000 people across the region who rely on the service.
The other eight projects will provide travel training, mobility counseling, language access, volunteer driver programs, taxi vouchers, and pedestrian infrastructure.
More specifics on these projects include:
- Mobility Management, refers to the way that transportation services are promoted or coordinated for older adults and people with disabilities. The Capitol Hill Village and Jewish Council on Aging received grants for their volunteer driver programs in the District, Montgomery, and Prince George’s Counties. Other grants cover travel training for people with disabilities, so they can learn how to get around easier on their own.
- Taxi vouchers, so people can afford taxis when they need them. Montgomery County Department of Transportation was awarded a grant to reduce the co-pay for people to use taxis.
- Pedestrian infrastructure to make it easier for people to use sidewalks. These improvements can include curb-cuts, or simply smooth out the sidewalk to make it easier for people who use canes or wheelchairs. The City of Rockville is planning to fix sidewalks leading to bus stops to make it easier for people to access the buses.
- Agencies receiving new vans or buses are better able to serve their clients with intellectual or physical disabilities to attend therapeutic day programs and participate in social and recreational activities.
This year, the TPB began seeking applications in August 2017 and hosted workshops across the region for potential applicants to better understand the application process and the program’s expectations. Once the application period began, more than 1,200 eligible transportation agencies, non-profit organizations, and private transportation providers received notice of the grant opportunity.
The Enhanced Mobility Program makes an important impact on people’s lives allowing them to be able to get around easier. These programs help connect people with their communities, help them get where they need to go, and help them stay healthy and active.
Want to learn more? Watch this interview with Wendy Klancher, Principal Transportation Planner.
Cover photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.