It’s easy to take transportation for granted, especially if you have access to a car or live in a city with public transit options. But for millions of Americans, getting to work, school, or even the doctor is a daily problem with no easy solution.
People who can’t afford an automobile, or people who can’t operate one, such as some elderly or disabled individuals, are left to rely on other forms of transportation to get where they need to go. But this often isn’t easy. What if the nearest bus stop is a mile away? What if the city’s taxi service is too expensive for your income? And what if you live in a small town where there are no options for public transportation?
These are just some of the problems that Sheryl Gross-Glaser’s organization, the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), works to address. We caught up with Sheryl for an interview, in which she described CTAA’s work and mission.
“CTAA works on various projects that help people in small urban areas, and rural areas in particular, to have better transportation options,” she said. “There are a lot of people who don’t have transportation, whether they’re older adults, people with disabilities. Sometimes they’re high school students who need to get to a part time job or an activity, and there’s nothing else for them. So we work on projects that help communities to expand those options in ways that are appropriate for them and that they can afford or get the funding for.”
Sheryl said that CTAA accomplishes this mission in a number of ways. In part, it’s always about keeping up with the issues, current events, and new ideas in transportation that are impacting communities and, ultimately, people’s lives. For example, she might study a small town with a top-notch transportation system in order to determine what they’re doing, why it works, and how it could be applied to other communities.
“I learn for a living to some extent,” she said. “I learn about different kinds of transportation and what is going on in transportation in different places. ... [S]o we’re talking about public transportation, taxis, new shared-use modes, driverless transportation that’s coming down the road … so that I can share what I’m learning and apply it for others. Then they can use that innovation in an appropriate way wherever they are.”
CTAA frequently forms partnerships with organizations, communities, and transit agencies to help them work together to improve the existing transportation system. This could include, for example, finding more efficient and cheaper ways to get people to and from the doctor when they need it.
“Right now, CTAA has 16 different health care grants out,” she said. “We’re working with 16 different communities—with health care providers and transportation providers, and others in the community—to address specific health care needs.”
She went on to describe some of the specific areas being addressed with these health care grants. “An example would be dialysis [patients]. That’s a truly difficult situation, because people have to go several times a week. … We’re also working with some communities to improve access to routine and preventative care. There’s one community that’s working very specifically on helping pregnant mothers get to care.”
Without the efforts of agencies like CTAA, she explained, people might not be able to get the care they need.
“They’re caught in this bind where they don’t really have the money to hire a taxi or some other kind of private transportation, and they can’t get to the doctor. Or what they do is they’ll ration their care, so they only go when they think it’s really important or when they think it’s important enough to call an ambulance. So they end up not getting the routine care that they need.”
Knowing she’s helping to make a tangible, positive impact in people’s lives is her favorite part of working with CTAA. “You right away see the difference you’re making in people’s lives,” she said. “There’s nothing more depressing than sitting at home day after day because you can’t go anywhere. … And so what we do is provide people with access to an independent life and a valuable, enjoyable life.”