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Media Contact:
Robin Stringfellow
DART Communications

Deborah Dubin-Rosenberg
Dubin-Rosenberg & Assoc.

October 28, 1998

New national education program to sell seniors on transit

Transit agencies across the country will soon be able to reach out to the elderly with a message of independence and discovery, and to convince more seniors to board public buses and trains. That's the goal of a new national public education program being developed in Dallas with help from Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and local agencies serving senior citizens and people with disabilities.

"Dallas is a perfect place to develop this kind of program, and we're proud to be a host," DART President/Executive Director Roger Snoble says. "We've been working hard to improve the convenience and accessibility of our bus and rail system, especially for people with mobility impairments. Like a lot of transit systems around the country, we want to acquaint more seniors with our services, particularly those who can no longer drive, but are still active."

The challenge, according to Snoble, is to make prospective elderly riders aware that even if they have functional limitations, transit can be a viable means of independent travel. "We need to rekindle their confidence and sense of discovery," he says.

The project is being funded through Project ACTION, a Federal Transit Administration-funded national technical assistance program that promotes cooperative solutions to accessibility issues. Deborah Dubin-Rosenberg, principal of the consulting firm Dubin-Rosenberg & Associates, which received the Project ACTION grant, says the Dallas project will have a far-reaching impact.

"We want to help transit systems and senior citizens across the country find common ground," she explains, noting that the Dallas project will produce radio and television public service announcements aimed at seniors and specially tailored transit training materials for use by transit systems nationwide.

The project got underway in June with meetings of officials from several participating agencies and DART, followed by a series of senior citizen focus groups. The results will guide the development of the education materials and set the tone for the planned public service announcements.

"This is an exciting project because we're bringing together so many talented and dedicated people within the transit and disability communities," Dubin-Rosenberg says. "I don't recall more resources focused on helping transit systems increase ridership among seniors."

"Those with visual and other types of disabilities have provided valuable insights into what is important to them regarding public transportation," says Judy Scott, director of the American Foundation for the Blind Southwest. "With this kind of information, the public education program should be very successful."

Representing those with visual impairments are the American Foundation for the Blind, Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind, Dallas Services for the Visually Impaired, North Texas Taping & Radio for the Blind and the Texas Commission for the Blind. Advocacy groups for seniors include AARP, Advocacy, Inc., Dallas Area Agency on Aging, The University of Texas Health Science Center's Department of Gerontology, the Dallas Information & Referral Service, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Reach of Dallas and Senior Citizens of Greater Dallas. Representing transportation are DART, the American Public Transit Association, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce and the Community Transportation Association of America.

"The Greater Dallas metropolitan area offers a rich opportunity to find ways to address the needs of transit operators and seniors alike for the purpose of creating a nationally replicable public education model," says Nancy Smith, director of Project ACTION.

"The Dallas area typifies the reliance many communities place on automobile travel. The population of older adults is rapidly increasing and, as last year's Transit Agency of the Year, DART has demonstrated its leadership in finding new ways to make transit work for everyone in the community."

Initial focus groups showed that seniors and their family members are most concerned about the ability to reach health care providers, food stores, places of worship and senior centers, Dubin-Rosenberg says. "If seniors use transit for a portion of these trips, we know they'll be rewarded with a more independent lifestyle. That's the message we're trying to communicate."

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