Ridership Independence for the Disabled in Buncombe County

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Buncombe County has a population of over 225,000. Providing adequate transportation services to the residents of small urban and rural areas of the County is often a challenging task. Long distances often make it difficult to operate transportation services in a cost-effective way.  In 1989, Buncombe County, in partnership with other human service organizations, started Mountain Mobility, a community transportation system which is dedicated to elderly and disabled persons.

Buncombe County's population growth and increased population of elderly and disabled continues to add to the need for accessible services. Even with the extensive Buncombe County Transportation Services, there are not enough transportation resources for older adults and people with disabilities.

A 2012 update to the Buncombe County Locally Coordinated Plan documented the need to fill in the gap in services provided by Asheville Transit and Mountain Mobility for those residents who live outside of the immediate service area or who are unable to access alternate transportation. Additionally, the need for a way to travel on Sundays and after hours was highlighted. These areas may include geographic regions outside of Asheville, but may also include areas where Asheville and Mountain Mobility services are unavailable to people who are disabled.

Now known as RIDE, the program coordinates many of the region's transportation resources to provide basic mobility for Buncombe County residents with disabilities when the current transportation system is unavailable, insufficient, or inappropriate to their trip need.

RIDE utilizes an innovative market-based approach for expanding services for the disabled while (1) increasing the coordination of existing resources, (2) promoting consumer choice, (3) coordinating multiple funding sources, and (4) monitoring performance in service delivery.

RIDE increases coordination of transportation resources through utilization of an open RFP process to qualify transportation providers for participation in the program, thereby making use of the vehicles, scheduling software, and personnel from multiple transportation providers.

RIDE increases coordination among other community organizations to improve customer services. The program has multiple access points. It utilizes the relationship organizations already have with their clients, in some cases even allowing caseworkers to serve as mobility managers. In addition, RIDE program staff provides both outreach to new organizations and mobility management services directly to individual customers.

To accomplish this coordination:

Voucher tickets are the "currency" customers use to purchase services from qualified transportation providers.

Community organizations serve as points of access, making them partners in marketing the program and serving as mobility managers for the customers.

Land of Sky Regional Council serves as the fiscal agent for this coordinated transportation program serving all of Buncombe County, which provides ride tickets to people who are disabled and need transportation.

Through the benefits of collaboration, the program is being tested as a model for expanding services, promoting consumer choice, and ensuring optimum quality in service delivery. Through the benefits of this program, people that are disabled can now go to doctor's appointments, the grocery store, the pharmacy, and make other necessary trips.