National Academies Press: OpenBook

Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response (2024)

Chapter: Chapter 9 - Sustaining Success--Improving into the Future

« Previous: Chapter 8 - Emergency Management--Strategies and Approaches
Page 74
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 9 - Sustaining Success--Improving into the Future." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×

Image

CHAPTER 9

Sustaining Success—Improving into the Future

Transportation organizations are now more prepared for future health emergencies than they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations are expected to have learned a great deal from experience with the COVID-19 pandemic because they found ways to work more efficiently, be innovative, and be flexible as they responded and adapted quickly to the pandemic. The responses to COVID-19 have created some significant benefits for agencies, their employees, and the community. Because of this, transit agencies have continued some pandemic services, policies, and relationships beyond the pandemic.

Institutionalizing Changes

Institutionalizing changes and lessons learned at a transportation organization means establishing and maintaining processes and practices beyond the emergency event and in a manner that will provide for continuity as personnel changes over time.

Some organizations are in the process of formalizing lessons learned through the COVID-19 pandemic experience and thinking about the similarities of critical elements during different types of emergencies (e.g., relationships, communication, flexibility). For example, Fort Bend Transit in Texas is updating its continuity plan to include policies and practices developed during the COVID-19 pandemic such as vehicle-disinfecting (Elgart, Walk, and Rodman, 2020).

Relationships that were initiated during the pandemic can be continued. Presently, many organizations are continuing to work with local county and city emergency management on an ongoing basis to conduct training and develop plans. Maintaining existing, established relationships can make a difference in the speed at which an organization can respond and adapt to an emergency. To ensure that these relationships are not solely based on the people involved, a transportation organization should document contacts and relationships and formalize them if possible, so they can be maintained over the longer term even if there is a turnover of staff.

Some regions that had regular interagency group meetings or formed coalitions to meet with transit and other organizations about community needs during the pandemic continued to meet after it. King County created a critical resources task force that was maintained beyond the pandemic (King County Metro, 2020).

The lessons learned from the pandemic can be used as new programs are being developed. As an example, a few transit agencies have started a program of all-door boarding, using lessons from the pandemic on marketing and messages to customers to improve the dissemination of information to customers about the program.

Page 75
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 9 - Sustaining Success--Improving into the Future." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×

Examples of Enduring Changes

The COVID-19 pandemic sped up the implementation of planned equipment and technology improvements at agencies, such as protective barriers for operators and contactless credit card payment systems, along with stimulating usage of new remote working and communications technologies that demonstrated long-term benefits. Some agencies are now hybrid, with employees working both inside and outside the office, going forward (e.g., Access Services). Training that moved to webinars continues to this day at agencies and organizations such as the Montgomery County (Maryland) Jewish Council for the Aging.

The pandemic changed how the community perceives transportation agencies because agencies provided solutions to other essential needs along with transportation. Some smaller organizations are continuing incidental uses that started during the pandemic (e.g., delivering food) with the hope that the work will become permanent. For example, Choctaw Transit, operated by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, is continuing work that supports older adults such as delivering food, repairing porches, and so forth, hoping that the work will become permanent.

Some safety measures initiated during the pandemic are still in place at transit agencies. Some organizations have maintained improved air filtration systems, such as HVAC, for fixed routes since it can help in multiple scenarios, such as reducing the spread of airborne diseases other than COVID-19, which is especially important for people with disabilities and older adults. Other agencies have continued a protocol for on-demand services that seats passengers in the rear of the vehicle, as far away from drivers as possible. A few transportation organizations continue to have mask dispensers in vehicle walkways for riders who need them, although it is unclear how long such practices will remain in place.

Managing Concurrent Emergencies

Because pandemics can last a long time, over multiple years, there is a good likelihood that one or more other major emergency events may occur during the pandemic. Concurrent events cannot be treated as separate events happening at the same time—they are interconnected, which can complicate the response. The recovery phase(s) with concurrent events may be more challenging because even though one event may be over, another may still be taking place.

Transit organizations recognized that had trip demand increased during the pandemic, there would have been a strain on resources. In addition, the uncertainty of the pandemic would have made decisions about prioritization more difficult. Agencies in California and along the West Coast did experience wildfires and extreme smoke days during the pandemic. Messaging that encouraged people not to take trips if they were not essential, similar to messaging for the pandemic, was implemented at SFMTA. A set of enduring lessons on communication with customers is being proactive, sending messages to customers about the current situation, and reaching out in advance, when possible, so customers have notice.

Emergencies such as wildfires and hurricanes often require evacuations of people with disabilities and older adults. During a pandemic, more vehicles may be required to provide enough capacity for social distancing. More screening may be required for evacuees before being transported. Sick or contagious passengers need to be kept separate. Communities may use non-congregant shelters, such as hotels, that may require more stops per vehicle.

Prioritizing the needs of customers is critical during emergencies, especially when concurrent emergencies are taking place. It is important to establish priorities in advance that reflect the needs of people with disabilities and older adults during emergencies while ensuring that there

Page 76
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 9 - Sustaining Success--Improving into the Future." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×

is a system in place for revisiting and re-establishing those priorities when the situation changes. While it may be difficult initially to meet the needs of all customers during periods with constrained resources due to multiple occurring events, the pandemic has shown how transportation organizations working with partners can find creative ways to meet the needs of the community.

Expectations can be realistically set by communicating frequently and consistently about what is being done (i.e., the specific approaches and measures being taken) and what is planned to be done. People generally are more understanding if they know all the facts.

Sustaining Successes

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of transportation as an essential service, especially for people with disabilities and older adults. Regardless of the emergency, these riders will need access to medical care, goods, and services. Transportation organizations have realized the need to proactively plan for temporary service, staffing, and policy changes that are responsive to the emergency but maintain access and mobility for people with disabilities and older adults. Sustaining these changes and continuing to utilize the lessons learned from the pandemic, as well as maintaining the adaptability and flexibility developed during the COVID-19 pandemic will allow transportation organizations to better prepare for pandemics and other emergency events in the future. Figure 11 shows an example of documenting the recovery stages of an emergency from King County Metro.

Page 77
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 9 - Sustaining Success--Improving into the Future." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×
Image
Source: King County Metro, 2020.

Figure 11. Mapping long-term recovery stages.
Page 74
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 9 - Sustaining Success--Improving into the Future." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×
Page 74
Page 75
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 9 - Sustaining Success--Improving into the Future." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×
Page 75
Page 76
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 9 - Sustaining Success--Improving into the Future." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×
Page 76
Page 77
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 9 - Sustaining Success--Improving into the Future." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27277.
×
Page 77
Next: Chapter 10 - Conclusions »
Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response Get This Book
×
 Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

The COVID-19 pandemic left many persons with disabilities and older adults without reliable transportation to access essential goods, medical care, and social engagements. Issues of social isolation for older adults were exacerbated with the emergence of COVID-19 because transportation service was reduced.

TCRP Research Report 243: Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response, from TRB's Transit Cooperative Research Program, aims to provide transportation organizations (including transit agencies, specialized transportation providers, and other local government agencies and stakeholders) with helpful information and strategies on providing service for persons with disabilities and older adults in emergency situations.

Supplemental to the report is a pocket guide.

READ FREE ONLINE

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!