In her position overseeing a transportation network that serves 14 mostly disadvantaged communities in the Mon Valley, Paula McWilliams has seen this scenario too many times:
Heritage Community Transportation takes someone to a medical appointment in McKeesport or Monroeville. Then the doctor refers the person to a specialist in the North Hills, leaving the person struggling to find transportation for the medical care.
“When we started getting those kinds of requests, we realized we had another problem to deal with,” said Ms. McWilliams, president and CEO of Heritage Community Initiatives in Braddock, which initially established a program to link workers with Mon Valley jobs.
“When someone says your life depends on it and the appointment is hours away or you find a second or third job and don’t know how to get there, that’s a real problem.”
To address that situation, Heritage pitched a program called the Travel Navigation Center, a sort of on-call transportation concierge, to the Pittsburgh Foundation. With an initial $70,000 foundation grant, the program is working with the Access system that provides transportation to the elderly to field calls and help design a way to get a client from here to there in the most efficient, least costly manner.