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Capital Metro touts partnership that keeps vulnerable residents moving

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

A nonprofit effort to expand transportation equity in Austin is celebrating a milestone while also dropping six figures to expand its scope.

Last week, the Transit Empowerment Fund announced it has provided its 3,000,000th bus ride via its partnership with the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority. At a press conference on Tuesday, TEF Chair Janet Allen awarded a pair of $50,000 checks – one to RideAustin and the Community Care Collaborative, and another to the Housing Authority of the City of Austin – to power two programs aimed at helping low-income residents expand their mobility options.

“We’re very proud to be a partner on this program. I think it’s really made a difference in a lot of people’s lives,” Capital Metro President and CEO Linda Watson said after the checks were handed out.

The transit agency partnered with One Voice Central Texas, a coalition of nonprofits, to launch the TEF in 2011. With an annual budget of $450,000 largely provided by Capital Metro, the project distributes discounted or free transit passes to organizations that in turn pass them along to disadvantaged residents.

“To my knowledge, no one else has ever done something like this before,” Watson said.

The TEF’s latest partnerships are aimed at, in Allen’s words, “supporting innovative transportation projects and solutions.”

HACA will use its TEF grant to expand its Mobility Ambassadors program to two new public housing locations. Participants in the program will be trained to use mobility applications and data tools that will help provide clarity about the transportation cost burdens borne by low-income residents. That in turn could help HACA place its residents more efficiently by catering to specific accessibility profiles and needs.

Meanwhile, the Community Care Collaborative, itself the union of Central Health and Seton Healthcare Family, will work with RideAustin to provide low-income residents with on-demand trips to clinics. The service will be aimed specifically at those who have limited or no access to bus transit. The CCC’s Sarah Cook told the Austin Monitor that the eligibility requirements are still being worked out. She said she expects the pilot program to serve between 500 to 1,000 passengers in its first year.

RideAustin’s Joe Deshotel said the grant helps the nonprofit ride-hailing service achieve its formative goal of becoming a “community asset.”

He added, “This grant by TEF, in partnership with the Community Care Collaborative, serves as a great example of how we can work within the community to expand mobility solutions to underserved populations in the Greater Austin area.”

Photo by John Flynn.

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