From Harford County government:
Harford Transit LINK and the Harford County Commission on Disabilities’ (both within the Harford County Department of Community Services) Transportation Committee are the recipients of the Transportation Association of Maryland’s (TAM) Human Services Partnership Award, recognizing organizations who contribute to improving mobility for their clients. The Award recognizes organizations or individuals who stand “head and shoulders above the rest in collaborations, innovative programs and ideas, and community relationships,” and who have contributed to their community or organization by “improving the quality of life for the individuals served through improved mobility.”
The Harford County Commission on Disabilities’ Transportation Committee is an interagency committee focused on its goal of “increasing ridership on existing transportation options in order to increase options in the future.” The committee is co-chaired by Marc Weinstein, chair of the Commission on Disabilities, and Mona Figueroa, then Acting Director of the Harford County Office on Mental Health. Committee membership includes members of the Commission on Disabilities, other persons with disabilities, and representatives of Harford Transit LINK, and community service provider agencies.
The Committee recognizes that public transportation is a critical component in the lives of persons with disabilities who do not drive and other transit-dependent populations. In FY2011, the Transportation Committee focused its activities on increasing ridership on Harford Transit LINK, especially its New Freedom Grant-funded Extender Service. The Transportation Committee believes its partnership with Harford Transit LINK and the Committee’s activities resulted in the 115% increase in ridership on the New Freedom Extender Service in FY2011.
TAM also recognized the role the Transportation Committee had in making transit information accessible. Harford Transit LINK, due to the recommendation of the Committee, posted valuable information (including the Ride Guide, service area map, paratransit applications, etc.) on their website, so that riders, as well as agency representatives who work with the public, have easy access to the information. The Committee was also recognized for their work in reaching out to the community, including the “Harford Transit LINK Day at the Arc,” where individuals supported by the Arc and their family members were able to tour a LINK bus, meet the driver, and pick up transit information.
The Committee was also responsible for Harford Transit Night at the Western Ho Down Dance. The Dance, sponsored by the Therapeutic Recreation Division of the Department of Parks and Recreation, is a popular monthly event attended by well over 100 adults with disabilities. Jim Ports, Harford Transit LINK Administrator, agreed to run the extender service until 9:00 p.m. in order to accommodate those attending.
The Committee realized that in addition to reaching out to potential riders, representatives of service provider agencies who work with the public often do not know how to ride the bus, read a schedule, etc. Subsequently, nine “Train the Trainer” sessions were provided to 123 agency representatives at the local branch of the Harford County Public Library, and, when more convenient, at the agency location. The training consisted of general information on Harford Transit LINK’s services and in depth instruction on trip planning.
The partnership between Harford Transit LINK and the Commission on Disabilities’ Transportation Committee is effective because the ideas and suggestions of committee members have been enthusiastically accepted and implemented. The partnership continues to grow – activities for FY2012 include a webinar based on the successful “Train the Trainer” sessions, which will be taped and posted on the Harford Transit LINK and Commission on Disabilities web sites. Also upcoming is a meeting co-sponsored by Harford Transit LINK and the Transportation Committee with service provider agencies which support individuals with disabilities working at contracted jobs at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. The purpose of the meeting is to explore transportation options for these employees to travel to work. In this difficult labor market, these jobs are important opportunities, and the committee and Harford Transit LINK look forward to developing creative solutions to their transportation issues.
For more information on the Harford County Transportation Committee, please call Sharon Grzanka, Disabilities Coordinator, at 410-638-3373 (voice/tty). For more information on Harford Transit LINK, please call 410-612-1621 or visit www.harfordtransitlink.org.