Casey visits aging agency’s transport hub

Transportation Manager Dennis Wisor (left), Agency President Steve Williamson and U.S. Senator Bob Casey discuss transportation issues faced by senior citizens during a tour of the Blair Senior Services transportation hub Friday. Photo for the Mirror by Alyssa Fasolo

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Thanks to the Blair Senior Services Transportation Service, Blair County is able to meet the needs of hundreds of seniors daily.

On Friday, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., visited the Area Agency on Aging’s Rural Transportation Hub, located in Hollidaysburg.

Transportation Program Manager Dennis Wisor and Agency President Steve Williamson led Casey on a tour of the facility. The facility includes a large garage space that was built to house the nearly 40 vans that the agency operates. PennDOT supplies federal and state money for the vans, each of which holds 12 passengers and is equipped with a lift.

The facility’s main building includes the dispatch area, where between 500 and 600 calls are answered daily.

An essential component of the agency’s operations is data. Wisor and Williamson presented some of this data, gathered through the Ecolane program, to Casey after the tour.

“Data drives decision-making,” Wisor said during the presentation.

The company tracks both consumer efficiency and financial efficiency. Some of the important components of this data include trips per revenue hour, on-time performance, percent within ideal ride time, will-call wait time, valid stop percent, trips performed, vans per day, active service hours, trips per service hour, service hours per van and overall efficiency score.

By analyzing these elements regarding the performance and effectiveness of the vans, the company is able to make decisions to increase overall efficiency.

Wisor said that the company “strives to give them (seniors) independence,” making the efficiency of the transportation agency essential.

Another important component to the agency’s technology is the ability to track their vans. Using Google Earth, they are able to view every van in real time, allowing them to provide accurate reports and information. These features were demonstrated to Casey during his tour.

Casey said that he learned a great deal during the tour, which will impact his views on issues regarding transportation for senior citizens moving forward.

“For a lot of people, having an efficient transportation system is not just important, it’s vital,” Casey said. “When transportation issues that involve seniors come in front of me, it will have a new meaning.”

Casey was also impressed by the complexities of the system that he witnessed on the tour.

“I had no sense of how a system like this worked until today,” Casey said. “I’ve been to different communities and different counties in the state where they talk about programs, but there’s nothing like seeing from how the vans operate and what the capabilities are of the vans, to looking at the software and seeing the personnel here who are tracking all this information. It’s really impressive.”

Meeting the needs of senior citizens is a priority for Casey, and contributes to his goal of reauthorizing the Older Americans Act, a bill that expires in September.

“One thing we want to do is make sure the Older Americans Act is meeting the challenges that seniors face today,” Casey said. “That act has a number of features to it, but we want to make sure the fundamentals, for example, programs like Meals on Wheels, are not just able to exist, but that they have the resources they need to continue to deliver meals every day to people across our country.”

Casey hopes to get the act reauthorized this year.

“It’s really to focus on the fundamentals of the act and to get a bipartisan reauthorization, so to get both parties to buy into it,” Casey said.