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Community Transportation Programs-
Helping with Dignity and Caring  

by: Sandra Ray, Staff Writer
(Page 2 of 2)

The President and Founder Katherine Freund was recently appointed by President Bush to serve at the White House Conference on Aging. Freund began researching the program during graduate school after a fatal car accident involving one of her family members. Her insight into the real problem seniors not having adequate transportation alternatives helped shape the research and direction of ITN. Since the White House Conference on Aging occurs only once every ten years, her appointment gives her the opportunity to present ITN to policy makers, leaders, and ultimately, communities who need mobility options for seniors.

Returning Dignity to Seniors:

Seniors who have to stop driving often feel that their world is limited and they are dependent on family and friends to provide them transportation favors. By becoming a dues-paying member of the local ITN, the guilt associated with transportation is removed. Seniors are scheduling transportation that fits their own needs and sharing in the costs of the service. Seniors who are no longer able to drive can sell their vehicles and place the funds in their ITN account to pay for transportation. Scholarships are available for low-income individuals who need transportation, yet cannot afford to participate at the full cost of the network.

The program offers transportation for minimal cost, paid by the mile, for qualifying individuals. Instead of offering bus-style transportation, individuals are transported in private cars and can be picked up right on their doorstep. The service operates 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Individuals can plan their trips ahead or call when they are ready to leave. Individual accounts offer ease of payment, since the account can easily be debited at the time of the trip.

Sustainability of transportation programs developed in communities has long been an issue. When the funding is no longer available, the program is limited or eliminated all together. Since ITN is community-supported by seniors who use the service, businesses, health care providers, as well as local government funding, it is more viable in the long-run. Vehicle donations and volunteers also offset operating costs. Some drivers are paid, yet volunteer drivers are encouraged to help assist even more people. Volunteers support the network by working as drivers, thus minimizing the costs associated with operating the program.
ITN provides a community-based solution with long-term sustainability potential. This means, in essence, that seniors who were once limited in their mobility options may now soon have alternatives. Though the project is still in its initial roll-out stages, the research behind the program is strong, as well as the support at all levels of government. Communities and individuals alike can realize the value of grass-roots programs that provide flexibility for seniors, while still preserving independence and dignity for as long as possible.

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