PHOTOS PROVIDED BY //MASS TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY
The Flint Water Crisis has had a tremendous impact on residents throughout the community and many lessons were learned and can be shared with other communities facing similar issues in the future. Several challenges emerged that required new, innovative and creative approaches. These approaches include special rides to medical appointments and grocery stores, including the Flint Farmers’ Market for access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
As these new transportation needs became clearer, the Mass Transportation Authority (MTA) conducted meetings with area organizations to determine the best way to address these concerns. Out of that dialogue, a number of new services were born, such as Rides to Wellness, Rides to Groceries and work related rides. As these new services emerged, the community was faced with a new dilemma. Local grocery stores were closing, leaving “food deserts” in the inner city. As a result of this, MTA started new Rides to Grocery routes, connecting residents to other grocery store options. The New Yorker magazine did a documentary on the food deserts and the MTA response. This video sequence is on the New Yorker magazine website under “Notes from All Over: A Food Desert’s Supermarket Shuttle.” Read the online story at https://video.newyorker.com/watch/notes-from-allover-flint-michigan-food-desert.
Since the initial responses to the water crisis, and the implementation of programs such as Rides to Wellness, the MTA has used special grant opportunities and developed partnerships with area organizations to further grow the program.
Looking at the program in 2019, the Rides to Wellness service has grown from six cars to 100 vehicles serving the Flint and Genesee County community daily, since 2015. Facing Challenges MAKING A DIFFERENCE Rides to Wellness 63 To deal with this encouraging growth, the MTA purchased the former Baker College Transportation Technology center (formerly known as Superior Pontiac) in September 2018. The facility provides 76,000 square feet of space among five buildings, one of which will be the new home to the Disability Network.
To deal with this encouraging growth, the MTA purchased the former Baker College Transportation Technology center (formerly known as Superior Pontiac) in September 2018. The facility provides 76,000 square feet of space among five buildings, one of which will be the new home to the Disability Network.
Since moving into the new facility, the Rides to Wellness program has grown, with monthly ridership up nearly 12,000. Estimates show that the ridership will amass 1000 riders per day, provided in an on-demand, same-day service model. The same-day service model began in September 2016 and provided 160 trips the first month. Three years later, the service is growing fast, with 30 to 60 percent growth per month to nearly 12,000 passengers. Since 2015, the MTA has added 200 employees to handle the large growth. The Rides to Wellness program currently works with 114 area partners to address the community’s needs.
“PEOPLE ARE LIVING MUCH LONGER, BUT THE NEED FOR RELIABLE, SAME-DAY TRANSPORTATION BECOMES
A QUALITY-OF-LIFE ISSUE, AND THE MTA IS COMMITTED TO MAKING THESE SERVICES A REALITY,”
SAYS ED BENNING, MTA’S GENERAL MANAGER AND CEO.
The MTA has become the national leader of Rides to Wellness on demand, provided by a public transportation agency. Lessons learned at the MTA are being shared and deployed throughout Michigan and other communities across the nation. In addition, the MTA is the agency authorized to provide public transportation services in Flint and Genesee County. The MTA’s services include primary fixed routes, secondary routes (routes running only during designated times), para-transit, known as Your Ride, for senior citizens and persons with disabilities, and maintenance of the greater Flint Transportation Center, Your Ride Service Centers and the Amtrak Rail Station in Flint.