Human Service Transportation Coordination and Legislative Oversight

January 2009

By Jim Reed and Nicholas Farber

In a single year, the average American takes 1,500 trips and travels 14,500 miles. For many people, travel is as simple as driving or walking to the nearest transit station. For a growing number of Americans who lack transportation options—those with an age-related condition or a disability or who are poor—travel is more difficult. Many cannot afford a car or safely operate a vehicle. For others, mobility may be affected by inadequate access to public transportation.

Diminished mobility does not mean that the need to travel lessened. As the baby boom generation ages, more Americans will have mobility needs. Much of the burden will fall to state policymakers to provide adequate, affordable transportation for millions of older and less mobile adults.

Better coordination enhances services for people who use specialized transit and saves money in the process. A 2005 study published by the National Conference of State Legislatures found human service transportation coordination efforts in all 50 states. Although the degree of coordination varied among jurisdictions, NCSL found coordination-related laws in 34 states and statutes that specifically require coordination of human service transportation programs in at least 21 states. Many states have effectively executed coordination strategies. A key factor in effective implementation has been strong legislative oversight.

The NCSL study also uncovered problems with implementation. Some state laws often did not appear to improve statewide coordination of human service transportation programs. In a few states, legislatively mandated coordination processes had been abandoned or ignored. In others, a lack of cooperation among state agencies, failure to cooperate with the state legislature or lack of effective legislative oversight frustrated efforts. Legislative audits in several jurisdictions identified other coordination challenges.

This brief examines challenges with implementation of state human service transportation coordination statutes. It provides contextual information about emerging human service transportation needs and existing state coordination efforts. The brief also provides analysis of major hurdles and provides recommendations for state legislatures.

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