The United Way of Kent County has been working on solutions to impact areas of need in Kent County. Transportation access has been identified as a need that impacts many.
The United Way of Kent County, under the leadership of the Board, partnered with Chesapeake Charities to provide a Comprehensive Needs Assessment to identify areas in the community where needs are not being adequately met. Affordable transportation access was one of four areas identified. Based on the assessment, The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) was identified to develop the “Technical Workforce Transportation Action Plan” for the United Way. The CTAA’s report, “Addressing Workforce Transportation Challenges in Kent County” was published in the Community Transportation Reader on April 01, 2019 by Alex King, one of the staff who visited Chestertown. The CTAA met with over ten different Kent County stakeholder groups to identify key transportation barriers and opportunities in workforce related transportation access in the county.
The CTAA Report finds Kent County residents are challenged in transportation alternatives, “many of Kent County’s community members have to travel significant distance to access services, employment, or resources either within the small city of Chestertown, or outside of the county in larger urban centers, as far away as Annapolis or even into Delaware. Reaching these destinations can be a struggle for those who lack access to a vehicle, as transportation options are distant and infrequent.” The report further quantifies that, “Nearly 31 percent of Kent County residents qualify as members of Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) families. And, while the County is experiencing an increasing supply of living wage jobs and community development, there is a gap in accessibility between these jobs and local residents.”
The CTAA report identified actionable items that are now being addressed through a Transportation Task Force, Chaired by Mr. Wilson and the United Way. The Transportation Task Force includes area service providers, employers and local and state government representatives. The CTAA Report notes, “Despite the existence of a number of providers, many community residents view the current system as fragmented and failing to meet the needs of county residents. This is largely due to a lack of awareness around available options, the fact that existing fixed-route service runs at times that often do not align with community needs (workforce or otherwise), and the rural nature of the community means that often residents are challenged in accessing fixed route pick up locations. As a result, both potential employees and county employers face challenges around aspects like covering third shift workers and reaching rotating job sites.”
The Transportation Task Force is working on actionable items that include: a transportation survey for the county residents to identify local demand; a marketing effort to highlight public transportation options; and opportunities to cooperate and expand the existing bus routes and ridership with employers, workers and those who would support using the system over their personal cars. The Upper Shore Region (Kent, Talbot and Caroline Counties) is due for a Transit Development Plan in 2020 by the State of Maryland, to assess the transportation needs for the Region. The Transportation Task Force is working in advance of this study to provide a foundation for understanding the complex challenges for rural public access transportation for residents, and to improve their access to employment opportunities in the region.