Special Transportation Services Department Aims to Improve Quality of Life

Earlier this year, Omnitrans welcomed the Special Transportation Services (STS) department, formerly known as Valley Transportation Services. STS provides a number of services for senior citizens and people with disabilities, including one-on-one travel training on Omnitrans’ fixed route system. The department also oversees the Transportation Reimbursement Escort Program (TREP) (also known as Volunteer Driver Program), another initiative that makes it easy for eligible individuals to be transported by a friend or relative, who is then reimbursed for trip mileage. Finally, the department’s RIDE program partners Omnitrans with taxi and Lyft services, providing fares at a discounted rate for those who are unable to ride our existing bus service.

The team is lead by Director Nathan Churan, whose vision for the department is to provide innovative transportation options for seniors and individuals with disabilities in the communities which we serve.

The Special Transportation Services department.

Nathan explains that one of the agency’s biggest issues is “first-mile/last-mile,” a common issue in transit regarding the efficiency of getting customers from a transit center or centralized location to their final destination, particularly in less urban areas. For senior citizens and those living with a disability, it can be particularly challenging. “This is a problem that our RIDE partnership with Lyft and taxis, which we’re going to develop and build, can alleviate,” says Nathan.

While the RIDE partnership is a convenience, it presents another complication for those who may not have a smart phone. Nathan has a solution. “There is an app called GoGoGrandparent, where a senior can pick up the phone and request a ride, and the message is sent out to Uber and Lyft,” explains Nathan.

GoGoGrandparent connects the rider to a Lyft or taxi pickup. Because the drivers are aware that the request comes from a GoGoGrandparent user, they are able to provide a higher level of customer service for customers. “The best part is, the senior never even needs to use a smart phone, so this will allow us to really reach that demographic,” explains Nathan.

Elias Camara and Esteban Villegas, Paratransit Eligibility Technicians. They conduct the in-person assessments of applicants who are inquiring about Access, a service for people unable to independently use our fixed route bus service. The technicians determine whether the clients can get to and from a bus stop, if not, one of our special transportation services intervenes and assists anyone who requires being picked up at their home location and transported to their destination.

Future goals include creating partnerships with local senior centers in the county as part of the department’s senior mobility management pilot program. Nathan reveals that after the planning and outreach phase, the department hopes to award contracts to partner senior centers to begin offering some direct services. This will be of great benefit to our community of senior citizens, especially as it relates to their health care transportation needs.

Special Transportation Services’ focus is on improving quality of life for the senior citizen community and those living with disabilities through innovative transportation programs. To become more familiar with their work, and learn how to take advantage of these services, please visit their new webpage on Omnitrans.org.

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