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WSDOT Statewide Planning Human Services Transportation Plan online open house – Emerging trends

Various issues across the state are changing the landscape of human services transportation. These emerging trends are important to consider as WSDOT and its partners implement the strategies in the Statewide Human Services Transportation Plan.

Read more about emerging trends in the Statewide Human Services Transportation Plan [link to PDF]

COVID-19 response

The COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges for Washington’s transportation system. Despite the challenges, transportation providers, community-based organizations, nonprofits and government agencies found ways to help people travel to essential medical appointments, jobs, food banks, shopping and other services. Transportation providers were creative, in thinking about what riders who were isolating really needed, and to realign their budget priorities. Many providers stopped collecting fares and some began transporting goods and services, rather than just riders. This change helped keep vulnerable populations safe and was only possible through coordination and strong partnerships in the human services sector.

Read more about how the human services transportation sector responded to COVID-19 in the Statewide Human Services Transportation Plan [link to PDF]

Emerging issues in non-emergency medical transportation

Non-emergency medical transportation is an important service for people with serious and chronic medical conditions, including those who are aging, or who have cancer or kidney failure. These patients often use these transportation services to attend vital medical appointments and treatments that keep them alive. Many of these people need more than basic transportation services to get to and from these appointments. They may have very little flexibility about the timing of medical appointments. And, after undergoing a treatment session, they may find it physically challenging to wait outside in the cold, rain or heat.

While not all patients with serious and chronic medical conditions are seniors, seniors are more likely than the general population to also have chronic medical conditions. As people in Washington state continue to age, WSDOT expects the need for non-emergency medical transportation to rise.

Currently, many people with serious and chronic medical conditions use demand response services, such as dial-a-ride services, to get to and from their appointments. However, as many as 30 percent of all patients who miss medical appointments cite transportation as a key reason. Rising healthcare costs may also contribute to transportation difficulties, as Washingtonians struggle to afford both their healthcare and medical transportation costs.

Read more about emerging issues in medical transportation in the Statewide Human Services Transportation Plan [link to PDF]

Bus stop and person using map app

Emerging technology trends

Technology is a critical tool to support and enhance human services transportation in Washington. Many new technologies and systems have the potential to expand access to transportation, improve awareness of services and programs and help coordinate services between providers.

Read more about emerging technology trends in the Statewide Human Services Transportation Plan [link to PDF]

  • Autonomous vehicles
    Self driving cars may help improve mobility for people who cannot drive due to visual impairments, age or disability. They could also help transit providers who struggle to hire and retain drivers and may decrease the cost of providing on-demand services. However, this new technology will likely come with higher costs for customers, which might make it unaffordable for people with special transportation needs. Autonomous vehicles also may need special equipment to safely accommodate people with special transportation needs. WSDOT can encourage the state to build an autonomous vehicle policy framework around equity, so that self-driving cars and vans can improve mobility for people with special transportation needs.
  • Broadband access
    Internet is increasingly important in work, education, healthcare and many other facets of life. Across the state, public officials are focusing on expanding broadband utility infrastructure to increase internet access. Several strategies and goals transportation stakeholders identified in the Statewide Human Services Transportation Plan will depend on the network infrastructure of broadband providers. WSDOT supports the work of the Statewide Broadband Office to expand “affordable, resilient broadband service to enable economic development, public safety, health care, and education in Washington’s communities.” The office’s work will be critical in advancing transportation technology strategies and in meeting the transportation needs of all Washingtonians.
  • Real time information systems
    Real time information systems refer to programs, typically smartphone applications, which provide up-to-date transit information to riders. Most real-time information systems take the guess work out of scheduling a trip by providing updates on your bus location, expected pickup times and any delays on the route. While many urban areas in the state already have some form of real-time information connected with the transit system, many rural areas lack the critical communications infrastructure to support this technology. Without internet access, most real-time information systems in rural areas are hard to use.
  • Data standardization for transportation providers
    Data standards make it easier for riders to plan, book and pay for transportation without being experts in human services transportation. By standardizing transit data, transportation providers and app developers can leverage new technology like smartphones, mapping tools and real-time information to better connect riders to mobility services. WSDOT’s Public Transportation Division is involved in multiple data standards initiatives, in Washington and throughout the west coast. The projects will help residents overcome barriers to public transportation services by providing accessible, consistent and reliable transit data through data specifications.
  • New fare payment systems
    New fare payment systems, such as a card that riders can add funds to, or a smartphone app that riders can use to pay their fare, can make it easier for riders to use transit. However, these new systems also create challenges in human services transportation, especially for those who cannot afford to pay an upfront fee, are unbanked or do not have a smartphone. These systems also have limitations if service providers use different systems. These are issues that will likely need to be addressed in future statewide plans.