NWRTCC Region 1 Work Plan
Introduction: “The vision of the NWRTCC is to support affordable, efficient and seamless regional transportation through creative partnerships.” For three years we have worked to identify gaps and generate new opportunities to improve transportation for disadvantaged populations. This work has consisted of problem identification, coalition building, and creating community awareness of transportation needs. Phase Four will build the partnerships to meet those gaps. While we do this we also move toward a more outcome-based approach in addressing transportation problems. The proposed workplan is composed of seven tasks identified by Minnesota Council on Transportation Access. The identified tasks allow each RTCC to identify HOW they will address the need.
Our primary goal is to gather transportation stakeholders in a variety of ways, to explore how the resources available can be shared and utilized most effectively. The majority of our work involves increasing communication and understanding throughout the region. Our partners are busy running their business and don’t have time to collaborate as much as they might want. RTCC staff can be their eyes and ears around the region and get back to them with the news they need. We support partnerships that help meet the gaps in transportation services by learning who has what to share, and who needs just that very thing. We do this by being at the table where local conversations are held and relationships built. There is no substitute for being there. The RTCC will support promotional efforts for the wide range of transportation options in the region including public transit, specialized transportation services, volunteer driver programs and informal opportunities. Our role is to keep transportation needs on the mind of the public and brought to the attention of local, regional, and state policy makers. We will support efforts to create a more enjoyable transportation experience and increase rider satisfaction. Some coordination efforts require new technology and support at the state level. We will bring those resources to our local transportation providers while helping communicate their needs to those with the power to change things.
One of the most obvious ways to improve efficiency is to begin sharing the resources we currently have. We will identify the agencies willing to explore partnership opportunities and track the vehicles available to share. This work is only possible because of the planning and relationship building accomplished during the first three years of the grant. RTCC staff will work as a broker between interested parties and generate new transportation opportunities. We will research best practices related to insurance, driver training/requirements and payment models and report back to stakeholders. The biggest challenge is helping these organizations develop the process and policy needed to address legal and insurance concerns. There are many successful models out there and we can provide the time and research to create the best fit for their partnership. This RTCC grant will support the work needed to build these types of creative partnerships.
The first three years of our work has focused primarily on transportation providers and riders, and rightly so. Now we expand our vision to the public and private organizations/businesses in our community who rely upon effective transportation services to meet their own business goals. We identified two specific areas to expand our partnerships: Medical and senior living services; behavioral health and social service providers. RTCC staff will leverage relationships created with Advisory Council members and other stakeholders to gain access to regular local/regional gatherings of various providers (monthly county social service providers, quarterly Area Agency on Aging advisory council meetings, AmeriCorps Senior meetings, Veterans Service Provider meetings). By being present at the table we can bring the interests of our stakeholders to bare and bring opportunities back to our stakeholders. RTCC staff make the connections between multiple providers, share important resources, and bring the concerns of the riders to the conversation.
Volunteer drivers are the backbone of many essential transportation services, especially in rural communities. RTCC staff will continue to work closely with MN Council on Transportation Access to support volunteer driver programs through recruitment, training, and professional development resources. We continue to provide advocacy and public communications around current legislation that addresses the issues impacting volunteer drivers. We gather the providers in our region to share resources and find ways to address new needs. Recent events suggest we may need to develop an alternative model to volunteer drivers, that provides an affordable solution while also providing a wage for the drivers. These new models require imagination and creative energy with the Area Agencies on Aging, the Regional Development Commission, and local entrepreneurs.
The focus of the Local Human Service-Public Transit Coordination Plan (Plan) is human service transportation coordination, with a special emphasis on transit dependent populations in Northwest Minnesota. Transit disadvantaged populations include people with low-incomes, persons 65 and older, and people with disabilities. This planning process fulfills federal requirements by engaging transportation providers, social services agencies, and members of the public in identifying strategies for regional transportation coordination.
Mobility Management is a new field and best practices are developing quickly. Professional development and expanding opportunities to learn about transportation issues has been identified as a specific task for the upcoming year. Additionally, NWRTCC staff has asked for training on interconnections between transportation issues like health, food access, job security.
The last year has demonstrated how quickly an emergency situation can impact how we live our daily lives. MNDOT provided free transportation to Covid-19 positive medical appointments and the RTCCs provided an essential link for that to happen. Our stakeholders count on the RTCC to stay connected to those involved in managing a crisis. In Phase 4 of the RTCC grant we will build our relationships with emergency management professionals in our region and provide a regular connection to MNDOT and MCOTA resources. This expanded relationship will allow us to better identify gaps in service and plan ahead for possible crisis situations. We are tasked with representing the “transportation disadvantaged,” or those most likely to be stuck in case of emergency.