Transit Service Keeps Seniors Mobile

I recently spoke with Paul S. Branson, the very busy senior mobility manager for Contra Costa County’s Aging & Adult Services. I met Paul last month during a lunch sponsored by the hard-working, all-volunteer Central Contra County Senior Coalition, and I knew our talk would be informative and pleasant.

Q: Why exactly do current senior transportation services need improvement?

A: Although the existing system works well for some, there are too many gaps. First of all, this is a large county with an increasing elderly population. And we all know the elderly population will further increase as the baby boomers age. Essentially more and more seniors will not be able to drive.

Q: How are you involved?

A: While many are involved, I see myself as a community catalyst, helping to plan the needed changes. Our goals are to help seniors remain in their homes as long as possible. Many folks go to facilities because they cannot use the paratransit system or taxi vouchers.

Q: Many elders have informed me that they are afraid of the taxi drivers. Additionally, they say the paratransit cars do not arrive on time, or the drivers sometimes leave folks stranded for hours. And as you mentioned, the costs of paratransit or taxi vouchers are too costly for some. So these folks end up trapped in their homes.

A: Yes, that is true. Also, many home-bound seniors cannot use paratransit unless they are medically unable to drive a car or use the regular bus system. So again, seniors sit stuck at home! There are many barriers.

Q: What are the services?

A: The range of services, that differs somewhat in our various cities, include the bus system if elders can safely use it, paratransit vans and cars, discounted taxi vouchers, and my favorite developing program, the volunteer driver program.