Federal Interagency Transportation Council on Access and Mobility
Remarks for James S. Simpson, Administrator, Federal Transit Administration, Washington, DC
June 19, 2008
On behalf of President Bush and Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, I am delighted to be here with all the members and representatives of the Federal Interagency Council on Access and Mobility.
I know Secretary Peters is very proud to serve as the chair of this Council, and I am honored to take her place today. Back in February 2004, President Bush signed the Executive Order that set the Council and its mission in motion. Since then, Council members and representatives from many different federal agencies have worked together to become true champions of America’s most vulnerable citizens.
As the British philosopher John Stuart Mill once said, “Cooperation, like other difficult things, can be learned only by practice.”
I want to thank all the co-chairs and participants who serve on the Council’s working groups for their dedication to enhancing mobility options for America’s seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income families.
Thanks to our collective efforts, these populations have greater access to public transportation services that take them where they need to go -- to the doctor’s or the dentist’s office, the senior center, the supermarket, or school.
By helping these citizens to remain mobile, we have also helped them to remain independent, to maintain dignity in the face of hardship, and to participate in the daily activities and routines that make life meaningful.
Our work has helped to transform transportation from an obstacle, into an opportunity.
Today, the “United We Ride” logo is a widely recognized and respected symbol of mobility throughout the nation.
Let us take a few moments to celebrate the Council’s accomplishments over the last four years.
I am proud of how far we have come in fostering cooperation and leadership at both the state and local levels.
Forty-two states now have coordinated leadership plans for integrating transportation and social service needs in major urban areas.
What’s more, many states have shown their commitment to this concept, by codifying transportation coordination in state laws.
Meanwhile, at the local level, the local organizations our agencies fund, whose missions range from Medicaid, to aging, to workforce training, are also working on ways to improve citizens’ access to critical transportation and social services, in new public transit human service transportation plans called for by this Council.
I’m also struck by the wisdom of adopting a vehicle sharing policy that puts people first -- a policy that goes a long way to avoid the “stovepipe” mentality that sometimes limits government’s effectiveness.
I’m referring to the agreements now in place that allow different federally funded providers to offer transport services to customers of other programs.
This way, if there’s room on an Administration on Aging van for a Medicaid client, he or she can simply hop aboard.
Makes sense, doesn’t it?
That’s what this is all about -- working together to find the best solutions for our citizens, who are far more interested in know that help is available, than in who provides it.
I think we can also be proud of the good progress that the Council has made on other fronts. We’re working with OMB on principles for cost-sharing among agencies that want to work together on coordinated services, developing performance measures to help communities measure progress, and providing technical assistance to local communities.
We’ve reached out around the nation to human service, workforce, health care, and educational professionals, to help them help their customers develop individual transportation plans.
And we’ve launched a national demonstration project using the Department of Transportation Intelligent Transportation Systems technology, or ITS, to create a one-stop source for customer information on transportation. One call does it all, as the saying goes.
And finally, one other significant accomplishment that bears mentioning is the creation of “mobility managers” -- community-based travel coordinators who know how to get things done at the local level. It’s so important that we build leadership for coordinating services from the ground-up -- within each community we serve.
As we look back over the last four years, I think we ought to be proud of the difference we have made in the lives of so many people who are working hard every day to overcome a daunting array of medical, financial, and social challenges.
I know it has not always been easy for our various agencies to reach consensus on the issues and challenges before us. But I think we have succeeded in recognizing that the Americans who depend on us the most, have much to gain from our ability to find common ground -- and to act for the common good.
There is ample evidence to show that we have done that, and Secretary Peters and I are confident that all of us on the Council will continue to find ways to enhance mobility options for the populations we serve.
And now, on behalf of Secretary Peters and the Council, I’d like to present several United We Ride recognition awards, in honor of outstanding contributions to the Council’s mission.
I’d first like to recognize the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, or ODEP. Under Secretary Chao’s leadership, ODEP co-sponsored a National Summit on Employment and Transportation back in 2002, where it was decided that the White House and other federal agencies ought to work together to promote locally coordinated transportation solutions.
This visionary recommendation ultimately lead to the creation of United We Ride -- and to the inter-agency cooperative efforts that have brought us here today.
ODEP has since followed through on its commitment to the program, contributing not only staff, but also funding. We are very grateful for the Department’s $1.3 million contribution over the last three years.
Unfortunately, Secretary Chao could not join us today. Here to accept the United We Ride Recognition Award on behalf of the Department of Labor is Neil Romano, the Department’s new Assistant Secretary in charge of ODEP.
Neil, on behalf of the Department of Transportation, Council members, and the American people who rely on the services we help to provide, we thank you for your Department’s leadership and dedication in the field of transportation coordination.
Next I’d like to recognize Josefina Carbonell, Assistant Secretary with the Department of Aging. Secretary Carbonell has been an early and enthusiastic advocate for transportation coordination, and a tireless supporter of a cause she holds dear -- increasing the mobility of seniors across America.
Secretary Carbonell worked hard to ensure that the 2006 reauthorization of the Older Americans Act included a provision directing local service providers for the elderly to coordinate their transportation services.
Under her leadership, senior service networks around the country have had the communications tools and information they require to develop and deliver successfully coordinated transportation services for older adults.
The creation of the Eldercare Locator Program has been particularly useful in helping local communities to identify transportation needs for the elderly -- and enhance the options available to them.
Secretary Carbonell has also been a valuable member of the Council’s HHS transportation working group, and has served as a federal liaison to the United We Ride Mobility Services for All American initiative.
Secretary Carbonell: For your dedication, enthusiasm, and problem-solving abilities, and for all that you have achieved on behalf of seniors everywhere, we are pleased to present you with this United We Ride Recognition Award.
You know, every organization is only as strong and successful as its core staff.
The Council on Access and Mobility is no exception.
I’m so pleased to recognize today two outstanding individuals who have helped to make the Council a success.
While both individuals have since left the Council to take on exciting new challenges, we cannot let them slip away without acknowledging their contributions.
Bryna Helfer earned a reputation as one of the best networkers ever. She served as a de facto staff director for the United We Ride initiative, and was responsible for directing many of the Council’s outreach efforts. Her energy and commitment are legendary. Bryna, on behalf of Secretary Peters and the Council, we are so grateful for acting as the “glue” that held things together, and for all that you have done over the years.
Mary Leary came to us from the private sector and academia. We’ve benefited tremendously from her expertise and experience, which lead to the creation of many of the tools developed to help local service agencies coordinate transportation services.
Mary brought an invaluable perspective focused on results -- and on ensuring that the Council earned a return on its investments. Bryna and Mary: Please accept these United We Ride Recognition Awards on our behalf.
Thank you so much for all you have done.
We all wish you much luck in your future endeavors.