Special needs topic of transportation meeting

S. Whidbey May 3 workshop will address barriers

The Island Regional Transportation Planning Organization, or IRTPO, will hold workshops to obtain information on transportation barriers experienced by individuals with special needs across the region.

Brian Wood, IRTPO transportation planner, said he hopes to get input from agencies that serve these individuals but is mostly seeking first-person accounts by the people facing transportation challenges.

The workshop for South Whidbey will be held 1-3 p.m., May 3 at Island Senior Resources in Bayview.

“I would say if I had a goal, it would be to see all the end users who are saying ‘I can’t get to where I need to go,’” Wood said.

The information gathered at the workshops and with surveys will inform the IRTPO’s human services transportation plan, he said. This plan helps the group develop strategies that can be put forth as agencies seek grant funding to address the types of challenges presented.

The IRTPO includes officials from Island County, the City of Oak Harbor, the Town of Coupeville, the City of Langley, the Port of South Whidbey, the Port of Coupeville, Island Transit and Washington State Department of Transportation.

Wood said the information the group gathers can be used by smaller organizations, like churches or local nonprofits, seeking larger grants to address transportation needs in the region. The workshop will include information about the human services transportation plan, its goals, data collected so far, and then groups will get together to find needs and gaps in services and provide ideas for potential solutions.

This is the first time the organization has developed its own plan; in the past, it had been a part of a larger regional transportation planning organization with Skagit County. Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, chairperson of the IRTPO executive board, said she believes the county will fair better with its own plan.

“It’ll be totally focused on the needs of islanders, so I think it will be much more effective,” she said.

Wood said it is difficult to get enough information to successfully apply for grant funding from the state Department of Transportation because it’s such a large agency, but these types of workshops and surveys will go a long way toward helping inform the strategies its members develop.

“It’s a tall order,” he said. “I hope we are successful in connecting with as many people as possible.”

An online survey on special needs transportation can be found at tinyurl.com/islandHSTP

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