2014-05-08 / Front Page

Curb-to-curb transportation service proposed

By KATHY CHANG
Staff Writer

South Brunswick residents over the age of 55 and those with disabilities may soon be able to access public transportation in and around the township.

The Township Council was expected to discuss implementing the town’s first curbto curb transportation program during its May 6 work session.

Jacque Rubel, founder and advocate of the Aging In Place Partnership (AIPP), said the service would essentially restore the independence of hundreds of township citizens by providing reliable, accessible and affordable transportation seven days a week, including evenings.

“These goals will not happen overnight,” said Rubel, adding that such services for seniors have become more of an important issue nationwide. “The baby boomers are right behind us, and this problem is not going away.”

AIPP member Pat Kay approached township officials about the idea of curb-tocurb transportation service at an April 1 council meeting. She returned April 22 with an open letter expressing frustration that officials were not aware of the serious transportation problems in the township.

Kay said curb-to-curb transportation is needed because existing township, county and private services are not adequately meeting the needs of seniors and people with disabilities in the community.

When older Americans who cannot drive on their own are denied access to social activities because of their limitations, the world closes in on them and their outlook on life narrows, she said.

“They become less and less vital members, unable to contribute to their community, and more and more of a burden,” Kay said. “It is no wonder that geriatric depression is so prevalent.”

In South Brunswick, there are more than 12,000 residents over the age of 55, which constitutes about a quarter of the population, she said. Rubel said the township could move forward with the service thanks to a wheelchair accessible van that was donated by Len Schickler, a member of AIPP and vice president of Brunswick Mobility Professionals in North Brunswick.

The van can transport up to two wheelchairs or an electric scooter, and up to four passengers, depending on the amount of equipment on board.

Under the proposed model, volunteer drivers would go through background checks completed by the South Brunswick Police Department. These drivers would be trained by Mobility Professionals to ensure they are prepared to handle the safety challenges of individual riders. Drivers would also complete an orientation process.

Riders would include individuals identified as senior citizens and disabled adults of any age. All would be residents of South Brunswick and would register with AIPP as an individual or family.

The service area would primarily be within the township. The projected per-trip travel distance is 8 to 10 miles.

Those seeking to use the service for medical trips would first have to request transportation from the township or county.

Deputy Mayor Chris Killmurray said that the plan AIPP put forth is a worthwhile goal. He said the council is looking into the request and has asked the administration to come back after researching issues of insurance, fuel issues and the legality of not owning the vehicle that was donated.

Killmurray said the township currently offers an array of transportation for the senior population and although it may not be curb-to-curb service, within an economic downturn budget it offers seniors as well as those who need transportation assisted food runs three times a week, medical transportation and more.

South Brunswick’s proposed paratransit service is the outcome of two approaches that officials have identified through in-person meetings, personal conversations, shared resources and other research.

Rubel said since an initial transportation committee meeting in 2009, officials have been fortunate to work with experts who are recognized as national, state and area transportation providers.

In March, AIPP held the “Transportation Summit: Working Towards a Tri-County, Seamless Transit Plan and a Model Middlesex County Curb-to-Curb Service,” where stakeholders were on hand to discuss the service. Many shared personal experiences with transportation provided at the local, county and state levels.

“Fortunately, we can build upon their proven successes and will not need to reinvent the wheel,” Rubel said.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@gmnews.com.

Items for Community Bulletin Board may be emailed to nssent@gmnews.com. They also may be faxed to 732-780-4192 or mailed to North & South Brunswick Sentinel, P.O. Box 950, Manalapan, NJ 07726.

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