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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 4 - Roles and Responsibilities." 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.
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CHAPTER 4

Roles and Responsibilities

In an emergency, transportation organizations need to protect employees and customers, ensure continuity of operations, realign service to meet changes in demand, secure additional funding and assets, enhance communications with all stakeholders, and train and educate employees on response duties. All of these responsibilities must be accomplished while ensuring the systemic and structural resilience of the transportation system.

Pandemics impact transportation employees in many ways. During COVID-19, people in almost every job category had their regular work routine severely disrupted, and some performed tasks that were quite different from those of their regular job (e.g., delivering groceries and supplies). In many agencies, drivers and other staff assisted with cleaning vehicles and facilities. Organization leadership and decision-makers had many policy concerns that needed an immediate response and often necessitated increased coordination with other agencies and organizations. Service planners focused less on operations and more on safety and had to quickly adapt to changes based on new or different information and government orders related to the pandemic. Multidepartmental groups, or multitasking individuals, had to address the procurement of PPE, cleaning and decontamination, service planning and operations, workforce and passenger policies, and internal and external communications. Transportation organizations had to work with other state and local agencies, along with employee unions (where applicable), to coordinate responses as policies and procedures were developed or modified.

Key Points on Service for People with Disabilities and Older Adults

Key players with coordination roles in providing service to people with disabilities are both within the transportation organization (e.g., accessibility coordinators, service planners, communications staff) and external to it (e.g., community organizations, local governments, state departments).

Essential Workers

In all emergencies, identifying essential functions is key to maintaining continuity of operations and effectively responding to an event. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that identifying essential workers was just as important. Essential workers perform functions that need to be performed despite restrictions put in place by governmental entities. Transportation organizations realized that they needed to identify essential staff, not only drivers for service delivery but also staff to perform operational and administrative functions. Larger transit agencies found that they needed to designate several levels of employees as essential.

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 4 - Roles and Responsibilities." 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.
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The term “essential worker” is legally defined by the federal government, and some states add additional clarity to that definition with their own specifications. Transportation, as a sector, is considered an essential function during emergencies. In most states’ guidance on essential workers, “transportation and logistics” is part of the definition and includes airlines, railroads, taxis, private transportation providers, and public and private mail and shipping services. Some states, such as Washington, included transportation workers and employees supporting or enabling transportation functions in their definition of essential workers.

During some emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions are put in place that limit the ability of non-essential workers to go to work. After such restrictions were activated during COVID-19, some transportation organizations had to work with their state government and health agencies to ensure that transit drivers and others in high-customer-contact positions and critical staff were classified as essential workers or as something similar, such as “emergency service worker,” to continue to work. When the COVID-19 vaccine initially became available during the pandemic, the limited supply required a prioritized determination of who could receive it. Organizations again worked with their local and state health agencies to ensure that drivers and frontline workers could receive the vaccine as soon as possible (Mader, 2021).

Stakeholders

Coordination with other organizations and within the transportation organization is essential to developing a pandemic response or action plan, especially if there are limited resources or guidelines to utilize. Without appropriate coordination, early warnings may not be received, legal permissions and special temporary authorities may be delayed, and critical roadways and infrastructure may not be prioritized in the response. Poor coordination with other agencies can result in wasted resources, reduced efficiency, and duplication of effort or contradictory activities. Transit agencies found that communication and teamwork were critical to staff resilience and the maintenance of their services (Ashour et al., 2021).

Collaboration, coordination, and communication within a transit agency and with other involved local, tribal and territorial, state, regional, and federal agencies can be challenging. Emergency events require interactions with and knowledge of other agencies that previously may not have been necessary. Table 6 shows the key players and critical roles in providing transportation service for people with disabilities and older adults during emergency events by type of organization (transportation or other organization). Table 7 lists the other key players and their roles. In smaller organizations, one individual may take on multiple roles.

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 4 - Roles and Responsibilities." 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.
×

Table 6. Key players and critical roles in providing transportation service to people with disabilities and older adults during an emergency.

Organization Type Key Players Critical Roles
Internal Agency Accessibility Coordinator Response
Service Planning Response and safety planning
Communications/Public Affairs Coordination of messaging and communications
State/Local/Tribal State/Local/Tribal Government Office of Access and Functional Needs Coordination/collaboration and response support
Department of Transportation Coordination/collaboration and response support
Department of Health Information and guidance on safety and protective measures

Understand how hospitals or nursing homes are transporting pandemic patients, ICU patients, and others with existing conditions
Department of Human Services Coordinate on state shelter plans and desired transportation and/or communications support
Regional/National Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Accessibility Guidance and recommendations/directives
Community Organizations Accessibility and Disability Organizations Information (e.g., where people with disabilities and older adults are located and what needs they may have)

Impacts of policies and service changes

Recommended approaches
Senior Centers Information (e.g., where people with disabilities and older adults are located and what needs they may have)

Impacts of policies and service changes
Other Community Organizations Impacts of policies and service changes

Gap-filling and capacity-extension
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 4 - Roles and Responsibilities." 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.
×

Table 7. Other key players and critical roles during emergencies.

Organization Type Key Players Critical Roles
Internal Agency Leadership Executive support and morale

Policy making

Decision-making
Emergency Management and Response Roles, responsibilities, preparations, and coordination (pre, during, and after) of event
Service Planning Response and safety planning
Maintenance Staffing and resources
Human Resources Policies and clear expectations for worker safety and for a safe workplace
Communications/Public Affairs Coordination of messaging and communications
Finance Expense accounting (e.g., event codes), reimbursement compliance
Purchasing/Logistics Ordering/purchasing processes
Union (applicable to transit) Workforce Representatives Review labor agreements, participation in planning and policy development, support employee buy-in/acceptance
State/Local/Tribal State/Local/Tribal Government Emergency declarations

Policy maker
Department of Transportation Emergency declarations

Policy maker
Department of Health Information and guidance on safety and protective measures

Understand how hospitals or nursing homes are transporting pandemic patients, ICU patients, and others with existing conditions
Department of Human Services Coordinate on state shelter plans and desired transportation and/or communications support
Emergency Management/Emergency Office Command Response support and coordination/collaboration
Regional/National FEMA Guidance and recommendations/directives
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Guidance and recommendations/directives
FTA/U.S. Department of Transportation Guidance and recommendations/directives
Page 26
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 4 - Roles and Responsibilities." 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.
×
Organization Type Key Players Critical Roles
Regional/National Transportation Associations Information sharing and roles
APTA/Community Transportation Association of America Regional and National Committees and Working Groups Information sharing

Coordinating help from other agencies
Community Organizations Community Organizations Impacts of policies and service changes

Recommended approaches

Support
Other Energy and Telecommunications Companies

Commerce/Supply Chain
Information sharing and potential support
Contractors Impacts of response

Information sharing and potential support
Vendors Impacts of response

Information sharing and potential support
Suppliers Information sharing and support
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 4 - Roles and Responsibilities." 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.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 4 - Roles and Responsibilities." 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.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 4 - Roles and Responsibilities." 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.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 4 - Roles and Responsibilities." 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.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 4 - Roles and Responsibilities." 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.
×
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Next: Chapter 5 - Personnel and Resources »
Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response Get This Book
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 Transportation for People with Disabilities and Older Adults During COVID-19: Lessons for Emergency Response
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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.

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