Waiting is the Hardest Part - Transportation Challenges in the Nation's Largest City
During the Connectable Community Roundtable Discussions, over 40 stakeholders came together to discuss how we can make Jacksonville the best place to live, work, and play for individuals with Autism, Down syndrome, and other IDD. Transportation quickly emerged as a top priority.
Jacksonville has unique transportation challenges as the largest city in the continental US in terms of landmass and a multicounty jurisdiction. The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) is tasked with designing and constructing bridges and highways and providing varied mass transit services, including paratransit in Duval County. JTA operates JTA Connexion (paratransit bus system) and JTA Connexion Plus (paratransit uber-type rides).
JTA Connexion is stretched to meet the ridership demands of a sprawling city. Pandemic-related driver shortages are compounding the issue. JTA Connexion riders often face hours-long waits for pick-ups with no communication about delays or canceled rides. Individuals have been left stranded at their pick-up locations, after business hours and in unsafe areas. It is not only an inconvenience causing people to miss appointments or be late to jobs and other destinations, it is a grave safety concern for this population, especially those who do not have the cognitive ability to navigate JTA customers service or a solution.
Local Solutions to Paratransit Woes
JTA Connexion Plus --- a micro-transit, curb-to-curb, on-demand uber-type service -- is an answer to many of the transportation related concerns for the IDD community, and ridership is rising. It is an excellent, effective expansion to paratransit services. We are moving in the right direction!
“JTA Connexion Plus gives Erin independence and it gives me peace of mind." says Elise, Erin’s mother.
JTA Connexion Plus plays a big role in Erin’s independence and quality of life. Erin enjoys an active lifestyle, living in her own home at The Arc Village, working, volunteering, attending church, exercising, and socializing. Erin is legally blind and has an IDD, so JTA Connexion Plus ensures Erin can safely and reliably travel to her destinations.
The Way Forward
Expanding JTA Connexion Plus accessibility would be an excellent step towards meeting this community need according to many stakeholders with IDD. While JTA Connexion Plus is reliable, rides are not cost-effective for people with income limitations. Many people with an IDD live on tight, fixed incomes. A one-way trip under 15 miles costs $6 and increases by $2/mile for each additional mile. In comparison, a one-way trip on JTA Connexion within county lines is $3 regardless of distance. JTA Connexion Plus is not cost-effective for many individuals who work part-time minimum wage job 15+ miles away.
Improving communication for riders is also a priority for the IDD community. Incorporating proactive texts on delays or an app-based communication platform so riders can be aware of pick-ups and delays for both JTA Connexion and JTA Connextion Plus.
Transportation is a community need that requires a solution driven by our local transportation authority, and may even require funding at the federal and state level. "Those impacted can get involved by attending planning meetings and sharing their experiences," says Charlotte Temple, Vice President of Advocacy at The Arc Jacksonville. "It’s not necessarily that decision-makers don’t care. They just don’t know if your voice isn’t at the table."
Waiting Is a Connectable Opportunity!
While waiting for a ride isn’t on the top of anyone’s list, it is a top-rated Connectable activity. Waiting requires no admission or big plan. It is simply being present with another. It is an opportune time to talk and connect. Next time you find yourself frustrated by a delay, change your perspective.