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Region's public transit leaving poor, disabled, elderly at the curb

BARBARA COTTER Updated: April 17, 2011 at 12:00 am

What can the Pikes Peak region do to improve transportation services for people who are elderly, poor or have disabilities?

Quite a bit, according to a group of social service providers and others who met Friday to help the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments start its months-long process of gathering advice from the community to update its Human Services and Public Transportation Coordination Plan:

• Create a dial-a-ride program.

• Expand bus service to cover more geographic territory and offer better hours for those who work nights and weekends.

• Start transportation services to Denver’s medical facilities.

• Pursue subsidies from area employers, who stand to benefit from a decrease in turnover when valued employees are able to get to work.

• Establish a single point of contact where people can get information on routes, services and other help in using public transportation.

The ideas kept flowing at the brainstorming session, though which ones make the final cut won’t be determined until more community meetings are held and the PPACG board signs off on the final draft toward the end of the year.

“There a lot of information to sort out. We’re not leaving here with a plan,” meeting facilitator Lisa Thomas, mobility manager for the PPACG Area Agency on Aging, told the group of about two dozen people.

The Human Services and Public Transportation Coordination Plan is one piece of PPACG’s 2035 Regional Transportation Plan, which is updated every four to five years. The updates are federally mandated for projects that may be funded with federal dollars, Thomas said.

The 2035 plan is also one of several efforts being undertaken in the area to address transportation needs.

“We all have slightly different missions,” she said. “But everyone is aware of everyone else.”

One of the more high-profile efforts, the Future of Regional Transit, focuses more on funding structures and governance, she said, while 2035 aims to find solutions to transportation problems.

Although Friday’s meeting wasn’t intended to be a platform for rants, most of the participants agreed that transportation for the elderly, disabled and those who can’t or don’t drive is far from perfect.

Cuts in bus routes have eliminated service to a huge chunk of the northeastern Colorado Springs, including Memorial Hospital North and St. Francis Medical Center, they said.

Some people who need jobs may be able to get only shift work, but with limited bus service on weekends and nights, they have no way to get there — aside from a costly taxi ride.

Taxis are ill-equipped to serve people with special needs, especially those in power wheelchairs. There’s no assistance for people who are afraid of using public transportation because they don’t know how to navigate the system or fear getting stranded.

Thomas hopes more people will show up at future meetings to suggest improvements in transportation services, because, she said, it isn’t just PPACG’s project.

“It’s the public in conjunction with PPACG,” she said. “It’s the region’s plan.”

PLAN DETAILS

For more information on the Human Services and Public Transportation Coordination plan, including future meetings, go to www.ppacg.org or call Lisa Thomas at 471-7080, ext. 114.

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