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Autonomous Vehicles, New Mobility & the Built Environment

Eyes on the Horizon with ITNAmerica: Changing the Future of Transportation for Seniors

ITNAmerica’s 2023 Annual Conference painted a clear vision of its continuing efforts to improve transportation for seniors and others with mobility challenges. The conference consisted of two parts.

  1. Online presentations from speakers nationwide who are involved with ITNAmerica’s programs.
  2. An interactive workshop with a focus on starting a non-profit, senior transportation service.  

T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, Ph.D., MPH, Senior Public Health & Transportation Advisor to both the Traffic Injury Research Foundation and the FIA Foundation, succinctly stated the increasing influence of ITNAmerica and its national network of nonprofit transportation providers in her opening comments. She painted a picture of how ITNAmerica not only predicts but actively shapes the transportation future for seniors. It does this while staying deeply rooted in its core mission of helping its affiliates serve the mobility needs of their respective communities.

From Humble Beginnings to Nationwide Impact #

Katherine Freund, ITNAmerica CEO & founder, shared the inspiring journey of ITNAmerica that began at the same kitchen table from where she gave her comments. Over time, the organization and its capabilities have grown while its focus remains on its goal of helping seniors maintain their independence by having mobility options.

Freund stressed the importance of natural affordability in transportation. ITNAmerica’s ITNCountry initiative provides non-profits with a low-cost way to become a senior ride provider. She believes that it should be possible to pay for the costs of ITNRides, the transportation software to join the ITNAmerica platform, through traditional fundraisers, such as bake sales and car washes.

At the same time,  while she respects the right of every community to decide ride fares for themselves on the ITNAmerica platform, Freund said she believes in riders helping to pay for themselves. By ensuring riders have a stake or “skin in the game,” the service fosters dignity and independence. She also has found that “many people who need rides won’t use a service that is free because they don’t want to take it away from someone else who might need it more than them.”

Volunteers Are the Lifeblood of ITNAmerica #

The 2023 recipients of the Max and Helen Israelite Volunteer of the Year were announced at the event and are:

  • ITN Affiliates: Vic and Peg Dubrowski from ITNGateway
  • ITNCountry: Don Deibert from Senior Transport Services
  • Trusted Transportation Providers: John Bissell representing Eastside Friends of Seniors.

These distinguished winners exemplify the spirit and dedication that propel ITNAmerica forward.

A Philosophy of Connection #

Dinh-Zarr, who also is a retired NTSB Vice Chairman/Acting Chairman, praised ITNAmerica for its forward-looking approach and its commitment to improving mobility. Her assertion that the world is “catching up” to ITNAmerica’s mission highlights its groundbreaking and forward-thinking approach. ITNAmerica’s aptly named Annual Conference Transportation on the Horizon: Empowering Community Mobility encapsulates its vision and commitment to lead with innovation.

Alan Fried, CTO of ITNAmerica gave an excellent overview of ITNAmerica’s API (Application Program Interface), while Nicole Knowles, of the National Council on Aging, explained how the information in this API will add value to the NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp® program.

This API integration is significant as it opens an important real-time connection between those who need rides and the organizations that can provide rides. It also helps match needs with what is available from transportation providers.

Rides In Sight API Overview – Image Courtesy of ITNAmerica

Relationships that Transform Lives #

Verginie Delwart, Director, Patient Advocacy for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, gave an overview of the company’s pillars of engagement to help empower, educate, and raise awareness for patients. As part of that program, Regeneron provides grants to subsidize rides to eye healthcare appointments. In the last 10 years, that program has given 101,000 free or subsidized healthcare rides.

Kathleen Davis, a rider with one of ITNAmerica’s affiliates, explained that she is grateful for the organization’s hard work and dedication. She said that she knows that the drivers are vetted and that the organization is reliable. She emphasized that the drivers are patient and helpful and are always on time.

Carl Wellborn of Detroit’s Independence Rides described how they are funding rides through a special donor program. These rides are to given destinations, such as arts and dentist appointments. This seems like the perfect opportunity for the destinations to provide subsidies, such as what ITNAmerica’s Ride & Shop program does.

ITNAmerica Initiatives Strengthen Community Ties #

One of the cornerstones of ITNAmerica’s service is the “Rides in Sight” database, as showcased by Morgan Jameson, ITNAmerica’s Training Manager, in the workshop portion of the conference. This platform lists 9,000 transportation providers, 800 of them nonprofit volunteer organizations that provide rides. This is a great tool for understanding what is already available in each market and understanding the gaps in transportation. Additionally, Jameson provided an informative session on leveraging LinkedIn to develop a local network of volunteer drivers.

America’s Volunteer Driver Center will offer a sustainable solution to serve America’s aging populace explained ITNAmerica’s Nicolas Candela. With the backing of entities like the US Federal Transit Administration, the CDC, and Congressionally Directed Spending supported by Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, this nationwide effort to recruit volunteer drivers is poised to transform how the nation perceives and supports nonprofit volunteer transportation.

In conclusion, ITNAmerica’s 2023 Annual Conference was a showcase not just for the strides it has taken but also for illuminating the path ahead. The organization’s commitment to its mission, its innovative partnerships, and its unwavering community focus underscore its pivotal role in reshaping the future of transportation for seniors.

ITNCountry Jumpstart Grant – Application Deadline 11/21/23

ITNAmerica is offering volunteer nonprofit transportation providers a free year of ITNCountry software, training, and support. More information on the program and the link to the application is at this link https://itncountry.org/jumpstart-grant/

Author Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

By Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

Ken Pyle is Marketing Director for the Broadband Forum. The mission of this 25+-year-old non-profit “is to unlock the potential for new markets and profitable revenue growth by leveraging new technologies and standards in the home, intelligent small business, and multi-user infrastructure of the broadband network.”

He is also co-founder of Viodi, LLC and Managing Editor of the Viodi View, a publication focused on the rural broadband ecosystem, autonomous vehicles, and electric aviation. He has edited and produced numerous multimedia projects for NTCA, US Telecom and Viodi. Pyle is the producer of Viodi’s Local Content Workshop, the Video Production Crash Course at NAB, as well as ViodiTV. He has been intimately involved in Viodi’s consulting projects and has created processes for clients to use for their PPV and VOD operations, as well authored reports on the independent telco market.

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