By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Maintaining existing public transportation and providing more rides between towns in Southwest Missouri are priorities for area senior citizens, disabled people and low-income residents, a recent transit survey suggests.
Kim Varner of the Harry S. Truman Coordinating Council outlined the findings in an update to the Public Transit-Human Services Transportation Coordination Plan 2012 at a meeting Thursday of the Joplin Area Transportation Study Organization at Joplin City Hall.
Varner said the transportation coordination plan is required by the federal highway bill and is updated every five years. The Truman Council is contracted by the Missouri Department of Transportation to do the study.
“We are looking at how senior citizens, the disabled and low-income residents move around, and how we can improve that,” Varner said of the study update. “We are looking at how demographics have changed and how we can address that.”
The study is done in four counties served by the Truman Council: Barton, Jasper, Newton and McDonald.
One significant finding is that residents and those who provide services to them cited gaps in service to and from several Southwest Missouri cities. The largest number of survey respondents cited a need for transportation to outside destinations and between the cities of Carthage, Neosho, Oronogo and Galena, Kan., and, for those who live in Lamar, to other cities.
Most residents cited a need for transportation on weekdays, with only a few citing a need on weekend days. Transportation providers cited funding as the most prevalent factor for restricting the amount of trips provided, according to the survey.
Respondents said that driving themselves or getting rides from family members, friends or neighbors are the most common types of transportation used. Others included bus routes, in vehicles driven by someone in the agencies that serve the residents. The least used were medical transport services, private taxis and other types of services for specific causes.
A forum was conducted Aug. 23 to seek the input of public transit providers, residents and those who supply human services.
Those who answered the survey ranked as high the goals of maintaining existing service levels, coordinating services more efficiently, providing more mobility between communities, and promoting new types of transit.
Recommendations made in the study:
• Replace old vehicles as necessary.
• Coordinate training and maintenance among providers.
• Keep data on ridership and use.
• Improve communication among transit providers in area cities.
• Reduce duplicated routes and schedules.
• Advertise services.
• Keep elected officials informed about needs.
REPRESENTATIVES of area government agencies involved in providing transportation are involved in the Joplin Area Transportation Study Organization and meet every two months.