Arrowhead RTCC facilitates vehicle-sharing among community agencies to expand capacity and resources

Arrowhead RTCC

“Sharing vehicles maximizes the use of a vehicle in service to a population,” said Karen Herman, executive director of Udac Inc., a Duluth-based nonprofit that assists individuals with disabilities through employment and civic life to advance community inclusion. “Transportation is one of the biggest — if not the biggest — barrier to community participation and access to resources. Multiple organizations using vehicles helps address these issues.”

The structure and coordination provided by the Arrowhead RTCC made it possible to take the idea and turn it into a ride-sharing project.

“The RTCC sets the foundation for coordination by cultivating buy-in,” said Beverly Sidlo-Tolliver, Arrowhead RTCC mobility manager. “One of the intentions of the RTCC is to break past the long-standing silos and identify the incentives to make changes and work with different stakeholders.”

Big Woods Transit vehicle
Bois Forte Reservation and Big Woods Transit vehicle van.

After Herman discussed vehicle-sharing at the board level, those discussions expanded into the community and led to conversations with a regional health provider and a vehicle-sharing solution. Since Udac’s day service programs remained closed or very limited because of the pandemic, their vehicles were available. The regional health center found an important use for the vehicles.

“Partnering with the regional health care provider to use the day service provider vehicles allowed for the rapid mobilization of vaccine clinics,” Herman said. “This process supported rural and marginalized communities to have access to vaccines more rapidly and without additional wait time and expense to purchase vehicles.”

Similarly, the Bois Forte Reservation and Big Woods Transit also launched a community vehicle-sharing initiative in the Arrowhead region by using a wheelchair-accessible van for non-emergency medical transportation.

“More vehicle-sharing opportunities offer the potential to offset challenges with evening and after-hours non-emergency transportation in rural areas,” Herman said. More shared-vehicle opportunities also help organizations learn more and share their successes with these types of programs.

“Vehicle-sharing makes sense to expand capacity and resources to populations and communities,” Herman said. “Maximizing the use of vehicles to make transportation more accessible to more people and with expanded hours is a win-win.”

With the increasing demand for transportation, the Arrowhead RTCC encourages new avenues to strengthen transportation options.

“The RTCC supports organizations to explore possibilities,” Herman said, “and it assists with problem-solving to make vehicle-sharing possible.”