Big boost for Contra Costa's paratransit plan with only one phone call

WALNUT CREEK – Paratransit regulators in Contra Costa County are developing a centralized, seamless transportation system for seniors and other people with disabilities because of a big federal grant.

The $1 million SMART grant recently awarded to the Contra Costa Transportation Authority will allow the authority to develop the “One Call, One Click” system over the subsequent yr. The goal is to consolidate 24 of the county's accessible transportation services into one database so users only should make one call to schedule a ride.

“With this grant, we're getting people where they need to go, to medical appointments, and providing them with services they didn't have before. So we're really enabling access and mobility for everyone,” Tim Haile, the transportation authority's executive director, said at a news conference on Friday.

Additionally, people using paratransit must currently contact their bus operator to book paratransit rides, which requires advance notice and is proscribed to certain times. They must use a separate service to make use of public transit and one other to make use of taxis, Lyft or Uber.

Officials said that transport links are sometimes cited as a significant obstacle for residents. Elderly people and other people with disabilities find it difficult to attend medical appointments as they could need medical services outside of their place of residence.

The grant will probably be used to develop a user-friendly system that may streamline services, significantly reduce journey times, enable more journeys within the evenings and at weekends and provides passengers access to larger geographical areas.

Local resident Pello Smith said he has been using paratransit to get from point A to point B for a minimum of a decade.

“It's been a lifesaver for me in everything I've had to do: doctor's appointments, shopping or a friendly date with my wife,” Smith said Friday from his wheelchair.

He used a service called “One Seat Ride,” which reduced his travel time from Antioch to Walnut Creek from about an hour to 22 minutes.

The “One Call, One Click” program will make it even easier for Smith and others to seek out their way, Haile said.

In awarding the grant, federal agencies considered complaints from paratransit users in addition to figures from the California Department of Aging on the county's aging population. Over the subsequent 15 years, Contra Costa County's elderly population is predicted to grow by greater than 30,000 people, lots of whom will lose their mobility and depend on paratransit ride services.

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