If your organization provides a telephone or chat hotline service, you may receive inquiries from the public about how they can travel from Point A to Point B. Sometimes helping them is quite straightforward if there are public transportation agencies with fixed route and/or demand-response services that meet their needs. However, some rural regions do not have transportation to all areas that people need to travel. In addition, many individuals may have special needs due to disability or income level and may need extra assistance with transportation. These instructions provide agencies with guidance to assist people to find transportation options for various travel situations.
When someone calls and asks for assistance finding transportation, you may be able to help the person right away if there is an established transportation service that fully meets his or her needs. If there is not, you will need to gather some basic information about him or her, perform online and telephone research, and prepare the information so that the person will be able to use it to travel. If you are a national agency, you may receive requests for this type of help for any area throughout the country, so these steps can be used regardless of where requesters live or travel.
Assess the Situation
Thank the person for the request and let him or her know you will be able to help, but first you need to find out some basic information. Find out the person’s town, county and state (and if he or she needs to travel outside of those, what the destination town, county and state are).
Find out what type of transportation he or she needs (medical - emergency/non-emergency, transportation to work, errands, etc.).
Ask if the individual has a disability and his or her age. When asking for this information, explain that some agencies offer free or low-cost transportation if a person has a disability and/or is above a certain age.
If someone needs medical transportation, ask what insurance he or she has (private, Medicaid, etc.). Explain that sometimes insurers provide transportation. You don’t need the insurance IDs.
Let the individual know that you need to research options and you will call back. Sometimes a person is anxious and want answers immediately, but you cannot do a good job of research while you are on the phone.
Use a web search engine to find the official (government) website for the town (and/or the town the person needs to travel to). Navigate to a transportation button. If there is no transportation button, call the main phone for the government agency number on the website and ask what transportation is available for the area.
If the passenger needs to travel to a specific hospital, check the hospital website first and see if transportation service is offered. Even if it is not offered on the website, call the hospital and inquire.
Use national databases to find transportation agencies and rides. Depending on the type of request, these resources may be helpful:
* The Eldercare Locator, a service of the Administration for Community Living, contains information about other services in addition to transportation.
Mobility managers can assist people with identifying transportation options in their communities. Visit the National Center for Mobility Management NCMM States at a Glance database to find state contacts.
National RTAP maintains some internal lists with links that we are able to share upon request. If you would like more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC) can also provide technical assistance on transportation for older persons and those with disabilities.
Start gathering your lists. Include agency name, website and phone number. Call agencies that have a hotline (like elder services agencies) to see if they know of any transportation providers. Take notes.
Perform web searches (based on what passenger needs.) Here are some sample searches to use:
- Public transportation town state
- NEMT town state
- Paratransit town state
- Disabilities transportation town state
- Senior transportation town state
- Volunteer transportation town state
- (Their health insurance) transportation town state
Note: You can substitute county for town in any of the above searches.
If you are really coming up with no transit options for a specific town (and this happens), look for cabs/taxis and try to find low-cost options. This may involve calling the cab companies. Social services agencies and religious organizations in the person’s town may help pay for some private transportation.
Relay the Information
Most people who need ride information call to ask for help and appreciate a phone call back. Read the person all of your notes that may be helpful (for example, the agency needs for you to call 24 hours in advance to book a ride) and verify that he or she wrote down the correct phone numbers. If someone wants web addresses, ask for an email address and send the information that way. Use your organizational email, rather than a personal email.
Some individuals express their anger regarding being refused a ride on paratransit, lack of availability of public transportation in their town, cost of transportation, or other issues. Be kind and sympathetic and, if possible, find any available phone numbers, emails, forms, etc., where the person can express concerns. Let him or her know whether your organization can or cannot advocate to any agencies on his or her behalf.
When you end the conversation, let the person know that if additional information resources are needed, he or she is welcome to contact you again.
Updated August October 18, 2019