County seeks transportation funding

Seniors, disabled would benefit

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Transportation for seniors and those with disabilities in Douglas County may be getting a much-needed boost in the near future.

With unanimous support from the county commissioners, the county is applying for a grant that would increase transportation funding in non-RTD areas by $622,464 for a two-year period covering 2014 and 2015. The county would provide a 26 percent match of $162,120, while the federal grant share would be $460,344.

“Transit in Douglas County is a challenge and a lot of it has to do with the fact that we are on the edge of the Denver metro area and our communities are so spread out,” said District 3 Commissioner Jill Repella. “We are working on it. We are continuing to work on it and this is part of that challenge.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge the county faces is that it has one of the fastest growing senior populations in the country, and between 2009 and 2011 it saw its transportation funding cut dramatically due to the recession.

In 2009, according to county documents, approximately 150,000 one-way trips were provided in non-RTD service areas to seniors and those with disabilities. That number dropped to 23,000 in 2011 due to a loss of funding. With some help from a Federal Transit Administration grant, it increased to 40,000 in 2012.

“Part of the challenge is we are playing catch-up, trying to get ourselves back to the level of transit services that we were providing previously,” said Jennifer Eby, the county’s community and resource services manager. “We are working with all the different partners and certainly everybody has been really stepping up and collaborating well to increase the number of rides this year.”

The county is the lead partner of the 21-organization Local Coordinating Council which includes transit providers, community-based organizations and each of the county’s municipal jurisdictions. The LCC consists of a volunteer driver program, the Castle Rock and Parker senior centers, as well as some for-profit entities.

The LCC works efficiently, says Matthew Helfant, the county’s transit mobility program manager, because the entities work together to fill in one another’s gaps in terms of geographic reach and operating hours.

Despite their coordinated efforts, a telephone survey sampling indicated that approximately 6,500 seniors and individuals with disabilities missed work in 2011 due to a lack of available transportation and roughly 20,000 county residents in those specific populations missed medical appointments for the same reasoning.

“This funding will enable us to provide more services,” Helfant said. “We simply don’t have the services available that meet our growing needs.”

According to Helfant, if the county gets approved for the grant, funding could be available as early as this October, but most likely would kick in January 2014.

For more information on the LCC as well as transit options available to qualifying individuals, visit www.dctransitsolutions.com or call 303-660-7519.

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