United We Ride Leadership Forum


02-24-04

JENNIFER L. DORN
ADMINISTRATOR
FEDERAL TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION

UNITED WE RIDE LEADERSHIP FORUM
OPENING PLENARY

FEBRUARY 24, 2004

 

[SLIDE 1:  United We Ride Logo]

Thank you Bill [Millar].  Much appreciation to you and the American Public Transportation Association for your sponsorship of today’s event.  And many thanks to all of the sponsoring organizations for their generous contributions of staff time, resources, and, most importantly, their commitment to making transportation services work better in our communities:  The Community Transportation Association of America; Easter Seals Project ACTION; and the American Public Works Association.  And special thanks to FTA’s Federal partners in the HHS Administration on Aging, the Labor Department Office of Disability Employment Policy, and the Federal Highway Administration’s ITS Joint Program Office.  I particularly want to acknowledge Josephina Carbonelle and Roy Grizzard for their incredible personal involvement, leadership, support, and their commitment to the customer and to results.  I can honestly say that we are working as a team in a way that I have never before experienced in government.

For those of you who have ploughed the fields of coordination with your sister agencies, you know the soil can be rocky.  For those who have done it, season after season, I commend you.  We heard last night from our United We Ride State Leadership Award winners just how tough, but rewarding this work is.  Can we give them another round of applause? 

[SLIDE 2: UWR with Department Logos]

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, and Secretary of Education Rodney Page – thank you for coming and welcome to the official kickoff of United We Ride!  

[SLIDE 3: Real People Representing Target Customers]

For most of us, how we will get to the doctor’s office, a job, classes, or the grocery store is not something we worry about in our personal lives.  Most of us hop in our cars to get to and from work, visit the doctor, go to the movies, or run errands. But for older adults, people with disabilities, and low-income families who can’t afford or can’t drive a car, these everyday activities are often out of reach. 

I know that many people in this room work professionally every day with, or represent people who have transportation challenges.  But I’d like you to think for just a minute about your own life … how many of you know someone who must depend on someone else for transportation?  Can I see a show of hands?  It could be an elderly parent, a disabled child, a neighbor, an acquaintance at church.

Quite a few of us…and that’s not surprising. 

But statistics don’t tell the whole story; real people do.

[VIDEO CLIP:  Man on the Street]

It’s a confusing and scary problem for people we call care about.  But the really good news – and I mean that sincerely – is that there are 62 Federal programs that recognize the importance of transportation.  That didn’t happen 10 years ago – or even 5 years ago.  And at this forum we have State leaders who receive funds from many of those 62 Federal programs; stakeholder leaders who represent the customers who receive the services; and Federal leaders who award the grants.  And we are all trying to help people like Joe Rider. 

[SLIDE 4: Joe Rider Slide]

Meet Joe Rider.  Joe is desperately seeking a ride to his doctor appointment, to the grocery store, or maybe even a part-time job.

The bad news for Joe is that there are 62 Federal programs [SLIDE 5: Federal Programs]…. that in turn fund hundreds of State programs [SLIDE 6: State and Local Programs] and thousands of local agencies that could give Joe a ride.  But without common sense solutions at every level, he may not get one.

[SLIDE 7:  Joe in the Middle of Federal, State and Local Programs]

I’m sure everyone understands this chart.  And, by the way, right in the middle of all this is Joe.  Isn’t he a lucky guy?  Is it any wonder that Joe has a hard time figuring out how to get where he needs to go?

We have used this chart to try to tell the coordination story to Federal colleagues and to community leaders.   It’s pretty clear that we don’t need one more new transportation program to solve this problem.  That won’t do it.  But we do need to sort through and sort out flexibilities and complexities to provide common sense coordination options.

As everyone here knows only too well, our programs many times have:

Not to mention…

So, is it any wonder that people like Joe are confused, frustrated, and vulnerable? 

[SLIDE 12: Headache]

Many people in this room have done their level best to reduce Joe’s frustration, working across agencies to solve these problems.  They have met with some success.  They’ve avoided headlines like this one: 

[SLIDE 13:  Bad Headline]  “Bureaucrats Limit Transportation Options for Seniors, Disabled.” 

As a public servant, I don’t like the way that sounds, and I know you don’t either.

Of course, its not just about bad press.  Each of you has come here this week because your Governor wants to find common sense solutions to the very real problems of the people of your State – and so do you.  We, as Federal bureaucrats, need to find more of those common sense solutions, too, and we are working on them.   

Let’s listen to what “common sense solutions” means to two typical older adults – Rose and Fleeta:

[VIDEO CLIP:  Rose and Fleeta]

I think that puts it in perspective.  Common sense, right?   Easier said than done, right? 

It takes time and effort to communicate effectively with colleagues who speak a different language – IEP, IFSP, IWRP, CMS, SCI, TBI, ITS, AT; patients, clients, consumers, riders – and we’re all talking about the same thing!  And we know it takes some resources – initially, at least – to coordinate.  But coordinating transportation services helps States do more with the money you have – and that’s good news! 

How about this headline? 

[SLIDE 14: GOOD HEADLINE]  “States Save Money; Increase Transportation for Medicaid Clients.” 

That sounds much better.  The kind of headline we’d like to see, and the kind of service we’d like to provide – to customers and to taxpayers!

Last night, we honored five States that have already made great progress in tackling the issue of coordinating transportation services.  Those states…and many others who were nominated for the awards…have already begun to see the impact of these efforts on their bottom line.

[SLIDE 15:  Money Trees with State Names]

In fact, you heard the statistic from Secretary Mineta last night – the National Academy of Sciences has estimated that States could generate over $700 million dollars a year in savings by coordinating human service transportation.

There are many coordination success stories, and you’ll be hearing more about them over the next few days and, I hope, sharing a few yourself.  They vary in scope and detail, but I’ve learned from literally dozens of visits and discussions in communities across this country, behind every coordinated transportation system are two things:  leadership and a plan.

One of the most important things that your State team will take with you from this conference is a “Framework for Action”

[SLIDE 16: FRAMEWORK FOR ACTION]. 

The Framework for Action looks so simple, just another brochure.  But it is a self-assessment tool that will help you determine where you are and create a customized roadmap to success  -- and it is a key element of United We Ride.  The Framework was developed by a team of experts representing the transit industry, human service providers, employment specialists, State agencies and customer groups.  It is a tool for every community – not a prescriptive rule, but a tool you can use.

Later today, you’ll have the opportunity to begin working with the Framework for Action and identify the issues that will be critical to progress in your own State. 

One of the things we’ve learned is that every State is different…[SLIDE 17:  Continuum] and every State is in a different place on the continuum toward a fully coordinated human service transportation system.  That’s okay!   Start where you are… all progress is good!

It all comes back to people and policies.  One of the most important “ah-hah” moments for me occurred last December, when I paid a visit to Fairfax, Virginia.  The county government had recently taken an important coordination step.  Before, separate vans operated by different community organizations served senior centers, vocational training programs, and adult day care centers.  In fact, there were multiple vans running down the same roads, passing by people who needed transportation help but didn’t qualify for a ride on that particular van.   We heard directly from the leaders in that community about what they did to help solve that problem.

[SLIDE 18: Cut Red Tape] 

Today, they run FASTRAN – a phenomenally successful single transportation service that provides a shared ride to Medcaid clients, adult day-care clients, seniors, and vocational training clients.  FASTRAN did coordinate eight different funding streams.  They have been able to save money and invest in driver training, provide attendants to ride on the vans, purchase more vans, and expand routes.  The effort to do all this involved using some of the most delicate, creative, and diplomatic skills of persuasion with the providers and stakeholders who had become accustomed to their own vans and what they thought was better services, as well as with Federal, State and local program agency leaders and program officers, who were concerned that by combining eight different funding streams into a single transportation program, all accountability would be lost. 

But Fairfax now has a comprehensive system that better meets the needs of people like Joe …and people like Patty.  Let’s hear her story. 

[Video Clip:  Patty’s Story]

People like Patty really made it come alive for me, and many of you, I’m certain, have your own Joe or Patty story to tell.  Because that’s what it’s all about – there are inspirational stories just waiting to happen in every community, in every State in America.

[SLIDE 19: BARNRAISING]

Those of us who have formed the United We Ride partnership among Federal agencies thank you for what you do and for being here today.   We are far from complete in our work at the Federal level, and we look to your guidance about how we can do our jobs better, so that together we can help Patty and Joe and millions like them, by developing common sense transportation solutions for the people who are counting on all of us. 

[SLIDE 20: UWR LOGO WITH WOMAN & CHILD]    

Thank you.