January 2018 – Today, citizens with disabilities, low income, and other challenges may qualify for rides on Hillsborough County’s Sunshine Line van service, or in Pinellas County on van services provided by Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. But their trips cannot cross county borders, because the programs are administered county by county. Quarterly, some members of the Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Boards in Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas get together to advance the goal of seamless trips between counties.
The tri-county group has continued to focus on this problem, and recently began exploring technology as a solution! Route Match is a scheduling software that the Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco County van programs all use. What if the software could coordinate the fleets and the dispatch centers of the three counties?
The group met with Tim Flanagan of Route Match, who provided an overview of how the software has helped other transit agencies around the country address similar needs. And yes, the software can provide assistance with our tri-county area’s goal!
How would it work? Someone needing a cross-county ride will be able to call in to a central hub with pick-up and drop-off details, allowing for coordination among the three county agencies. Mr. Flanagan has also suggested different hubs be created to maximize the capacities of the three county programs.
So, what’s the next step? The group would like to start with trips to medical appointments – such as cross-county trips to the Veterans Administration hospital near USF. They received promising news from Dave Newell of the Florida Department of Transportation, who suggested a federal grant for Enhanced Mobility of Seniors & Individuals with Disabilities to help with funding the $750,000 software upgrade. Grant program funds become available in late summer 2018. Mr. Newell recommended a joint application, which Mr. Ross Silvers of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has agreed to write.
Group members also discussed details of vehicles and whether this pilot project will provide trips to all medical facilities or just select high-priority sites. Members determined they would reach out to St. Luke’s Cataract & Laser Institute, All Children’s Hospital, Moffitt Cancer Center, and the two Veterans Administration hospitals to determine demand.
The group has recommended the full membership of the three local Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Boards (TDCBs) meet to discuss this solution and gain support for the grant application. Staff of the Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco MPOs are working together to convene this meeting.