This email newsletter is an effort by the Minnesota Council on Transportation Access (MCOTA) to provide periodic updates about its initiatives to the public and to interested stakeholders. Please let us know what you think by contacting Arlene Mathison at or Tom Gottfried at Subscribe to the newsletter.

Minnesota's Road to Volunteer Drivers Virtual Forum Series

road through forestThis virtual forum series is convened and sponsored by the Minnesota Council on Transportation Access in partnership with the Minnesota Volunteer Driver Coalition and will bring together volunteer driver program administrators, volunteer drivers, riders, funders, transportation policy advocates, and transportation stakeholders. The series will provide participants with the opportunity to share information to help maintain and strengthen these programs. All events will have live captioning and ASL interpretation. The events will be recorded and posted to the individual event web pages.

The virtual forums are free to attend, but registration is required.

Details are available on the Virtual Forum Series web page. Please contact Kaydee Kirk at 612-626-5854 or with any questions.

MCOTA senior leadership meeting

MCOTA held its first annual agency senior leadership meeting with commissioners on July 24, 2020. The agenda included an overview of the MCOTA 2020–2024 strategic plan and 2020–21 work plan. The group also discussed MCOTA, Regional Transportation Coordinating Council (RTCC), and Transit Coordination Assistance Projects (TCAP) program issues and opportunities, including how agency programs can support the mission and implementation of RTCC and TCAP initiatives. In addition, they discussed two votes on volunteer-driver program legislation requested by the 81-member Minnesota Volunteer Driver Coalition and the Minnesota Public Transit Association.

Senior leaders also voted that MCOTA agencies will support Minnesota state legislation and advocacy for inclusion in the 2022–2023 budget proposal of Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov. Flanagan that 1) clearly defines a volunteer driver as "not for hire," and 2) provides an income tax subtraction for volunteer drivers.

Finally, MCOTA senior leadership approved a motion to urge Congress to change the reimbursement for volunteers from 14 cents per mile to match the business mileage reimbursement, which, as of July 2020, is 57.5 cents. They are making the request to the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations as well as to the Minnesota congressional delegation. A letter from MCOTA to members of Congress will include the language and the background.

Northeast Minnesota RTCC update

In April, Arrowhead Regional Development Commission transportation coordinator Beverly Sidlo-Tolliver provided an update about Northeast Minnesota Regional Transportation Coordinating Council (RTCC) activities. Its members represent public transit agencies, including the Duluth Transit Authority, Arrowhead Transit, and tribal transit agencies, as well as volunteer-driver agencies, direct client service providers, veteran services, health care representatives, and each county.

The Northeast Minnesota RTCC work plan focuses on building a foundation to coordinate transportation services in the region and then filling the gaps. Examples include creating a transportation provider database, facilitating vehicle sharing, developing a rider training program, and strengthening volunteer-driver programs.

Dakota County’s Lyft ride-sharing pilot

GoDakota logoIn May, Dakota County mobility manager Robyn Bernardy shared information about several county mobility-management initiatives, including the partnership between Dakota County Social Services and Lyft. In Minnesota, transportation is a billable service under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services home- and community-based services (HCBS) waivers. With the Dakota County pilot program, individuals with HCBS waivers can take Lyft to get to and from employment and to access the community. Dakota County then bills the individual's Medicaid Waiver directly for the cost of the rides taken.

The pilot began with 23 riders in March 2019, slowly grew to 158 riders in November 2019, and up to 435 riders in May 2020. Each rider took an average of 24 trips a month, with an average cost of $13.40 per one-way trip.

The team evaluated the pilot through one-month and six-month surveys, focus groups, and case studies. Prior to the pilot, 60% of individuals were either dissatisfied or extremely dissatisfied with their transportation, with the remaining 40% neutral. One month into the pilot, nearly 92% of individuals were either satisfied or extremely satisfied with their transportation. Other outcomes that individuals report include:

  • Can get to work and leave when they need to = 71%
  • Friends and family no longer have to drive = 63%
  • Transportation is less stressful = 63%
  • Transportation is more reliable = 61%
  • Spending less time on transportation = 61%
  • Can work more hours = 43%
  • Got a new job! = 25%

The county highlights several success stories from the pilot in videos on its website.

See the GoDakota website for information about the Lyft Ridesharing Program and other transportation initiatives in Dakota County, including its Transportation Finder, Travel Training, and DakotaLink.

Washington County TCAP: Food security and transportation responsiveness during COVID-19

Washington County Emergency Food Pack Delivery informationIn September, Washington County mobility manager Sheila Holbrook-White discussed the response of the Twin Cities Area Transit Coordination Assistance Project (TCAP) to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March. At that time, Washington County recognized the importance of responding to food insecurity and created a three-person food-security unit that leveraged existing relationships built through the Washington County Transportation Consortium, including the Metropolitan Council Transit Link and the Washington County Community Development Agency. The mobility manager serves as the human hub, connecting individuals who need food shelf deliveries to the Transit Link contracted provider and supporting the connection between grocery purchases and individuals who order food.

The county sent a flyer with information about the grocery and food-shelf deliveries to about 10,000 homes of people with disabilities, older adults, and individuals who live at a Community Development Agency property in the county. As of September 1, 2020, Transit Link had provided food shelf deliveries to 2,689 individuals in the county — 52% of those who had requested an emergency food-shelf delivery never before had requested assistance from a food shelf.

As mobility manager, Sheila Holbrook-White also is connecting with community partners to make sure they know which volunteer-driver programs are operating and which community circulators still are providing rides. The goal is to ensure transportation remains available for those who rely on it.

Upcoming MCOTA meetings

MCOTA usually meets bimonthly on a Wednesday from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. In accordance with recommendations from the State of Minnesota to help slow the spread of COVID-19, upcoming meetings will be remote only. The meetings are open, and members of the public are welcome to attend. Each meeting includes time for public comments. See the MCOTA website for more details.

  • November 18, 2020, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
  • January 27, 2021, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.