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Improving Transportation Access in Rural Areas

Grant will connect older adults with transportation options

PHOENIX (May 2, 2019)—Social isolation. Lack of medical care. Decreased quality of life. All of these may be experienced by older adults without access to transportation, especially those in rural areas and with limited incomes. Now, thanks to a grant from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Age Friendly Arizona is launching a new Rural Transportation Incubator to address the lack of access to transportation services by older adults.

“Older adults with low incomes face many barriers to transportation services—a zip code shouldn’t be one of them,” said Queen Creek Mayor Gail Barney, chair of the Maricopa Association of Governments, which coordinates Age Friendly Arizona. “The Rural Transportation Incubator will provide the tools and technical assistance to provide direct services, as well as access to technology solutions, such as a phone application and website to help older adults connect more quickly to transportation services.”

There are an estimated 155,000 people over the age of 65 living in rural households across Arizona, according to 2017 Census Bureau estimates. Nearly 19 percent live alone, and six percent of those living alone (5,742) do not have a vehicle available for use.

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation is dedicated to meeting the basic needs of people and families experiencing poverty. The two-year, $300,000 grant requires at least a 75-percent match from the grant requestor. Age Friendly Arizona committed nearly 80 percent, for a $1.7 million overall program. The additional $1.1 million includes money and staffing assistance from partners across the state.

“We are thrilled to find committed partners working hard to make sure every older adult has access to the services needed to continue to live healthy and happy lives in their community. Not only will this project work to find sustainable solutions to rural transportation in Arizona, but it will also collaborate and share with rural communities throughout the country,” said Earl Millett of The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

The Rural Transportation Incubator will be modeled after other successful models and will focus initially on two to four communities that will be accepted for participation. The incubator will be used to provide technical assistance, mentoring and training. Lessons learned will then be used to develop a model that other communities can use.

“Access to transportation improves the lives of not only individuals, but also the financial stability and social fabric of the community,” said John Feather, CEO of Grantmakers in Aging. “This is true in Arizona and in every state. Through this grant, we will be able to offer tools to help other states build on what is being done in Arizona.”

Rural Transportation Incubator partners include AARP Arizona; Arizona Department of Transportation; Arizona Transit Association; Central Arizona Governments; Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization; City of Apache Junction; Foundation for Senior Living; Freedom Express, Grantmakers in Aging; the Lake Havasu Metropolitan Planning Organization; Northern Arizona Council of Governments; Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority; Rural Transportation Advocacy Council; Sun Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization; SouthEastern Arizona Governments Organization; Verde Valley Caregivers; and Vitalyst Foundation.