The Division of Public Transit within the West Virginia Department of Transportation recently helped purchase eight handicapped-accessible minivans to provide senior citizens living in rural areas who may not have access to buses or taxis with transport service.
[Above photo by WVDOT]
Bill Robinson, director of WVDOT’s transit division, noted in a statement that those minivans would provide transportation to medical appointments or other places senior citizens in rural areas need to go within their communities.
The special minivans are equipped with a ramp to allow for the easy loading of a wheelchair. The vans hold one wheelchair and three passengers, with an extra set of fold-down seats accommodating two extra passengers if wheelchair transport is not required.
Several of the communities receiving the minivans do not have access to public transportation, taxicabs, or ride-sharing services. John Caldwell, head of purchasing for the Division of Public Transit, noted those minivans are smaller than buses, making them easier to maneuver in traffic and cheaper for local senior centers to operate. They can also pick up patrons right at their front door.
“Unfortunately, some folks don’t have people to take them places,” Caldwell said. “They need to go to the grocery store. They need to go to their doctor. They need to get their medications.”
WVDOT’s transit division purchased those specialized minivans via the federal 5310 Program, designed to enhance mobility for seniors and individuals with disabilities throughout the country. Local community groups to which the minivans are supplied are responsible for coming up with a 20 percent match of the approximately $64,000 cost of each vehicle.
Caldwell added that his division was fortunate to get the minivans when they did, as the COVID-19 epidemic and resulting supply chain issues have made the vehicles extremely difficult to obtain. He noted, prior to COVID, Caldwell said he could get a new minivan within 150 days of completing the paperwork. Now the wait is as long as 30 months.
“The manufacturers are having issues getting the chassis from the factories that make the vehicles,” he explained. “There’s a long backlog of people trying to purchase these vehicles.”