Independent Transportation Network

Date Posted: 06/27/2018

driver helping older rider get out of car

The Genesis of the Independent Transportation Network

When Katherine Freund's young son was hit by a car and critically injured, she learned that an older adult whose driving ability appeared to be compromised was behind the wheel. She soon realized that the problem was much greater than that single incident. As she further investigated, she realized that many older adults behind the wheel were no longer capable of driving safely.

Ms. Freund, who had a major interest in public policy, secured both public and private grants to research the mobility problem older drivers experience when they reduce or stop driving. She realized that the problem was greater than simply surrendering the license. It often signified loss of independence and possibly, according to this author, a loss of their identity. She wanted to develop a program so enticing that older adults would be willing to give up driving in exchange for a comparable way of maintaining their mobility. The program she envisioned would provide enough incentive that older adults would not only enjoy freedom of movement but would maintain their activities in their community.

In 1995, she established an organization called Independent Transportation Network (ITN).

How the Program Works

Both volunteer drivers and people who need rides complete an application with the organization. Although the program uses many volunteer drivers, Ms. Freund explained that money is still needed to run the program. Ride Coordinators need to be paid, drivers need to be compensated for expenses, and someone needs to manage the local ITN organizations. Hence, there is not only a need for volunteer drivers, but local ITN affiliates must engage in community fundraising. People who use the service help cover the costs of rides through some form of payment. ITN fares are based on time and distance. She also explained that there are a number of ways older adults can pay for rides, e.g. an older adult who no longer can drive but still owns a car may trade the car to the organization. ITN sells the car and places the money in the individuals’ Personal Transportation Account. The money is then turned into credits which ITN members may use each time they need a ride. Ms. Freund also explained that while the program began by addressing older drivers, she encountered many older adults who could not drive due to vision loss or other disabilities. As these individuals may not have owned cars which could not be turned into credits, other means of payment for rides were developed.

Where It Operates

Today ITNAmerica supports Independent Transportation Network affiliates across the country. ITNs provide door-through-door and arm-through-arm services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for any purpose. Ms. Freund stated that the program seems to be more effective in smaller cities or suburban areas such as Sarasota, FL or Lexington, KY.

Development of Transportation Database: Rides in Sight

Ms. Freund explained that a major component of the program was added when Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. learned of ITN and asked whether ITNAmerica could develop a hotline and searchable on-line database for senior transportation anywhere in the United States. As a result of their collaboration, the program Rides In Sight was born. ITNAmerica researched and compiled a database of information about transportation for seniors and people with visual impairments throughout the US. Individuals anywhere in the country may call requesting information about transportation services in their specific area. If Rides In Sight staff members do not have that information available, they will research it and provide the caller with what is available, how often it can be accessed, and if there are fees.Trained operators staff the phones Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time: Rides In Sight 1-855-607-4337 or search the database, 24/7.

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