The Council on Aging & Human Services (CoA&HS) is a nonprofit social service agency located in rural eastern Washington near the Washington-Idaho border. COAST is the transportation program of CoA&HS, but its services are not limited to the elderly and individuals with special needs. COAST provides specialized and public transportation services to residents of 8 counties in the region, 3 in Washington and 5 in Idaho. In rural areas, COAST provides public and specialized transportation services; in small urban areas it offers services that are not offered by public transit providers operating there. It covers a 22,000 square mile service area.
COAST operates vehicles, serves as a broker for transportation services, operated a vehicle insurance pool, acquires and loans vehicles, operates vanpools, supports carpools, provides training services, maintains vehicles, operates an eight-county Information and Referral service, and dispatches rides throughout the region. COAST operates with both paid and volunteer drivers; some of its trips cover very large distances: for example, one-way trips between Clarkston and Spokane cover a distance of 120 miles.
The two distinct features of COAST’s approach to mobility management are its mission toward mobility and its customer orientation. Since 1984, COAST has been guided by the vision that mobility is a basic foundation of a democratic society: mobility should not depend on individual circumstances such as income, age, disability, or other personal characteristics. A key role of a mobility manager at COAST is to raise awareness and enhance the vision of mobility in every way possible. For example, it has been actively involved in legislative processes to change eligibility criteria and funding sources of transportation programs. COAST persuaded the State of Washington to implement a unique funding program for riders with special needs. It also played a key role in the formation in 1998 of Washington’s state level Agency Council on Coordinated Transportation (ACCT). ACCT’s mission is to coordinate affordable and accessible transportation choices for people with special needs; they do this in collaboration with state and local agencies and organizations.
COAST’s customer orientation is reflected in its comprehensive client list. Its mobility management services extend to members of the general public, seniors, school children, commuters, persons with physical, mental, and developmental disabilities, low income persons, Medicaid recipients, veterans, and many others. COAST has agreements with a wide range of agencies and service providers, including public transit operators, private for profit providers, area agencies on aging, schools, sheltered workshops, hospitals, Head Start programs, and many others. COAST brokers or provides services at night or during weekends when such services are not offered by other public transportation providers or to destinations not otherwise served. They manage vehicle sharing among various agencies, and they train drivers and maintain vehicles for many agencies. In order to establish this network, COAST has been reaching out to the community. When new facilities open up, whether it is a group home, a small non-profit social service agency, or other agency, COAST approaches them and informs what COAST can do to meet their transportation needs.
For those who are interested in mobility management, COAST has several recommendations. Study the regulations of your partners’ programs and learn how to work with their constraints and opportunities. Understand that a key role of a mobility manager is to advocate for mobility management in ways that support the primary functions of each of the partners involved. With coordinated efforts, each agency can achieve much greater results because of the efficiencies created through joint efforts. Long-term investments in developing partnerships will be needed: some of COAST’s major accomplishments took more than a decade to achieve. The alliance of agencies that COAST has forged through years of effort has few equals.
Information Provided By:
Karl M. Johanson, Executive Director
Council on Aging & Human Services
P. O. Box 107
210 South Main Street
Colfax, Washington 99111-0107
Interviewed By: Jon Burkhardt and Joohee Yum
Interview Dates: November 4, 10, and 11, 2010
Date of This Report: November 17, 2010.