Reprinted from Moscow-Pullman Daily News
By Scott Jackson Daily News staff writer
Jan 18, 2018 Updated Jan 18, 2018
COAST, a public transportation service for the elderly and disabled, had a banner year in 2017, officials say.
The service is the transportation division of the Council on Aging and Human Services based in Colfax.
Paige Collins, the council’s executive director, said in 2017 alone their drivers covered nearly 470,000 miles, up from 322,000 in 2016. She said this represents more than 21,000 individual trips in 2017 compared with just over 15,000 trips in 2016. This up-tick is partially due to new practices of stringing rides together to save time and volunteer efforts, she said.
“It’s really just become so efficient, but it’s also being used more and more,” Collins said.
Craig VanTine, COAST contracts and grants manager, said this kind of popularity can be a “double-edged sword.”
“It’s a good sign that we are providing services that people need,” VanTine said. “The bad part of the equation is we’re at our maximum as far as what we can do, and I believe the need is continuing and growing.”
VanTine said funding is a constant battle, and it will be difficult to continue to expand their services as the needs of the aging Baby Boomer generation grow.
“It’s been very tough to get funds to extend our services or funds to grow our service,” VanTine said. “But I’m confident that we’ll continue getting funds to at least keep the services were able to do I’m just hoping that we can increase.”
VanTine said the Washington Department of Transportation provides most of their funding on that side of the border. He said private contributions are generally much smaller.
“We continually look for grants and things like that,” VanTine said. “But, overall, the amounts are small, so we need the big grant in order to really continue our services.”
VanTine said the situation in Idaho is much more dire. He said the Lewiston Transit System supplied a sizable grant for 2017.
“It was just for one year, however, and now it’s gone away and there’s – at least at this point – no way to renew it,” VanTine said. “Unless we can find more money in Idaho, starting this fall we’re going to end up cutting back over half of what we’ve been able to do.”
Collins said they must instead rely on partnerships with organizations like the Disability Action Center, and the Lewiston-based Area Agency on Aging.
“We don’t have a large portion of our funds go to transportation,” said Jenny Zorens, director of the Area Agency on Aging.
Zorens said they mostly have some federal funds available for transportation. She said she wishes there was a state entity that could more adequately fund transportation services for the elderly and disabled.
Educating the public on the existence of the program is still a priority, Collins said.
“It’s funny, we’ve been in Colfax and Whitman County since 1976,” Collins said. “And there are still people here in Colfax who don’t really know what we do.”
Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.