When older adults stop driving, they may worry about losing their independence. Now, a University of Florida (UF) and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Safe Mobility for Life team wants to help them find transportation options so they can get to medical appointments, go shopping, head out with friends, or travel wherever else they want to go.
UF and FDOT have launched the website FindaRideFlorida.org, which features transportation options in all of Florida’s 67 counties.
“We know that a lack of transportation can have a big impact on physical and mental health. We want people to continue to meet their daily needs, participate in their communities and do the things they enjoy,” said Dr. Sandra Winter, the UF team’s project leader and the associate director of the Institute for Mobility, Activity, and Participation, or I-MAP, housed in the department of occupational therapy at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions.
Site users indicate their starting location and can select other search filters, including purpose of trip and special needs, such as wheelchair accommodations. Search results list the various transportation providers in that geographical area, along with details on cost, reservation requirements, service hours and contact information. Providers include traditional taxi companies, public transportation, nonprofits and ride-hailing services.
“Everyone’s mobility needs are unique, and by providing our aging population access to more transportation options, it will help older adults remain independent and connected to their communities,” said Ms. Gail M. Holley, FDOT Safe Mobility for Life program manager.
The site’s design features address the needs of users with low vision, and the site offers links to resources for screen readers that read the content aloud.
While FindaRideFlorida.org was developed with older adults in mind, the site is open to users of any age. UF and FDOT first began offering an online transportation database in 2004. The newly launched FindaRideFlorida.org offers several technological upgrades over the previous database, including the use of geographic information system mapping to make the site more accurate and user-friendly.
The GIS data captured by FindaRideFlorida.org could also inform state transportation policy, said Dr. Sherrilene Classen, director of I-MAP and a professor and chair of the UF department of occupational therapy.
“Find a Ride data enables public transportation agencies and decision-makers to respond to transportation gaps more effectively, leading to better, more equitable public transportation service planning and delivery to benefit the most vulnerable populations in Florida,” she said.
Ultimately, Dr. Classen said, the goal is that transportation options in Florida pass the “ice cream test,” an idea proposed by Dr. Joseph F. Coughlin, the founder and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab.
“If an older adult desires to have an ice cream cone at 9 p.m. on, let’s say, a Thursday evening, they should be able to obtain just that via user-friendly alternative transportation services,” Dr. Classen said.