Community Health,  Pennsylvania,  Quality of Life Benefits of Transportation

PennDOT, Transit Partners Help Seniors Stay Connected During Pandemic

PennDOT and its partners are committed to ensuring that transportation remains the ultimate connector during the pandemic and beyond.

Beginning in March 2020, Pennsylvanians began limiting travel and staying home to help stop the spread of COVID-19, and transit agencies saw ridership drop as much as 80 percent. Considering that many seniors rely on these services get to doctor’s appointments, to the grocery store, and more, several organizations in western Pennsylvania decided to bridge the gap when shelter in place went into effect.

While Shared-Ride services are available to any Pennsylvanian, they are most used by seniors 65 years of age and older. One of the organizations providing this service is ACCESS. The organization evolved by collaborating with local community organizations to expand shared-ride and paratransit services in a non-traditional way, offering a glimmer of light in an unprecedented time. ACCESS staff generated a list of about 700 people who had used the service in the last two months and did not appear to be connected to a human services agency. Based on this list, staff conducted wellness check-in calls and asked a series of questions.

These questions ensured that folks had knowledge of COVID-19, correct community resource phone numbers, information on acquiring meals, enough prescriptions, emergency contact information, and the option to receive additional check-in calls.  There was also time to “just chat,” as people shared their feelings of loneliness surrounding the pandemic.

With PennDOT’s help, changes in ACCESS’ day-to-day services evolved to fit riders’ specific needs. Instead of having to call and make reservations ahead of time, customers were able to request same-day ride service. In addition, rather than booking two separate trips, riders could safely travel to places like the ATM, the post office, or senior centers for grab-and-go meals and return home in one trip.

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