BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – (Dec. 7, 2012) – A new pilot voucher program for people with disabilities will soon begin in the Greater Bridgeport region. This new program will offer a significant 50% discount to a more convenient, flexible and already-affordable accessible transportation. This program is a result of a coordinated partnership between The Kennedy Center and its Regional Mobility Management Project, the Greater Bridgeport Transit, and Metro Taxi, Connecticut’s largest full-service taxi company.
The New Freedom Fund Taxi Voucher Program serves as an extension of paratransit service, known as Greater Bridgeport Transit Access (GBT Access) and is an outgrowth of the Regional Mobility Management’s “Know How to Go” project. One of its goals is to provide transportation alternatives to people with disabilities.
The Regional Mobility Management team conducted extensive outreach with local advocacy groups for people with disabilities and discovered that gaps in paratransit service prevented people with a qualifying disability from fully accessing their communities. Typically, riders who utilize ADA (Americans with Disabilities) paratransit service must call Greater Bridgeport Transit at least one day in advance to reserve a spot on the bus.
Beginning soon, qualifying passengers in Metro Taxi can travel beyond inter-town boundaries and enjoy much broader service than paratransit. These taxis are demand-responsive, requiring no advance reservation and go beyond the ¾ mile radius from an existing bus route, a requirement of the Greater Bridgeport Transit Access program, as long as the trip begins or ends within their service area.
The taxi voucher program offers rides in a Metro Taxi cab at a 50% discount for individuals with a qualifying disability under the ADA. Anyone who currently uses GBT Access is eligible to participate. The application process starts with an in-person assessment by a representative of Greater Bridgeport Transit. Once qualified, individuals will be eligible to buy a voucher, in the form of a debit card, at half the cost of a regular taxi ride. All trips must begin or end in Metro Taxi’s service area, which includes Bridgeport, Stratford and Trumbull.
“As the program progresses, the project team anticipates expanding the program to other towns in Southwestern Connecticut,” said Margaret Mixon, Regional Mobility Manager at The Kennedy Center.
“The Kennedy Center is proud to launch the New Freedom Fund Taxi Voucher Program in the Greater Bridgeport area,” added Martin D. Schwartz, president and CEO of The Kennedy Center. “This impressive pilot program fills a critical transportation gap in the federally-mandated ADA services and will benefit thousands of people with disabilities in our community.”
“My wife Isabelle and I are very excited for today’s launch, as our company’s mission is to expand freedom, independence and equality in transportation,” said Bill Scalzi, president and CEO of Metro Taxi.
On-demand taxi service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Metro Taxi, the first company to bring wheelchair-accessible cabs to Connecticut, has a history
of providing taxi service to people with disabilities. In 2010, the company partnered with Greater New Haven Transit District (GNHTD) to launch the state’s first taxi voucher program known as the New Freedom Fund Taxi Voucher Program.
In 2011, The Kennedy Center was awarded a federal grant under the New Freedom Program to fund a Regional Mobility Manager position. This program is administered by the Federal Transit Administration.
The Regional Mobility Manager works closely with community partners to fulfill the project’s mission of identifying and addressing gaps in transportation services for people with disabilities, seniors and veterans. These partners make up the project’s Steering Committee, which include the South Western Regional Planning Agency in Stamford, the Greater Bridgeport Regional Council, the Connecticut Department of Transportation, Norwalk Transit District, Greater Bridgeport Transit District, Valley Transit District, The Workplace, Ability Beyond Disability, Bridgeport Department of Social Services, and the BGHealth Group.
“The Greater Bridgeport Disability Advocates Collaborative, another partner in this groundbreaking program, wishes to thank the Regional Mobility Management team and Metro Taxi for their diligent work in launching the Taxi Voucher Program. This program will benefit many people with disabilities in the Greater Bridgeport Area by providing greater opportunities for inclusion in their community. The program also offers a new transportation alternative in the form of affordable, reliable taxi service with drivers trained in ADA compliance,” said Larry Robinson, Community Independent Living advocate with the Disability Resource Center of Fairfield County and a member of the Collaborative. The Mobility Services Program of The Kennedy Center is headquartered in Trumbull and has satellite offices throughout the state. The agency is a national leader in helping people with disabilities and senior citizens access transportation.
“Travel Training,” which The Kennedy Center has offered since 1991, teaches people with disabilities and seniors the skills necessary to safely and independently utilize regular bus and train services throughout Connecticut. Since its inception, The Kennedy Center has instructed over 3,500 individuals to access various forms of transportation for school, work, worship and leisure activities.
The Kennedy Center is a nationally accredited, non-profit, community-based rehabilitation organization that currently serves 2,000 individuals annually. The agency actively responds to the needs of the community by offering innovative, comprehensive service options to persons with disabilities and special needs, from birth to senior years. The Kennedy Center operates 24 community experience programs, 16 group homes, an industries program composed of six businesses, supported and competitive employment and job placement services, a family support and respite service, travel training, and a variety of children’s programs.
For more information, visit www.thekennedycenterinc.org. In addition, please visit the project website at www.knowhowtogoct.org or contact Margaret Mixon, Regional Mobility Manager at The Kennedy Center, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (203) 365-8522.