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South Brunswick Needs Better Transportation Services For Seniors, Panel Says

South Brunswick Needs Better Transportation Services For Seniors, Panel Says
Written by Brenda Stolyar

The Middlesex County Senior and Handicapped transportation advisory board spoke at the South Brunswick Township Council Tuesday meeting regarding seniors' concerns about local public transportation.

In an open letter to the council submitted by board member Pat Kay, the transportation panel said they felt the township and private services do not adequately meet the needs of seniors within the community.

The main issues with the South Brunswick transportation involve limited stops as well as problems with scheduling. To help solve these dilemmas, Kay proposed the idea of curb-to-curb transportation.

“[Seniors] need to do general shopping, get haircuts; go to banks, churches, places where they can take classes or workshops…When older Americans are denied access to these kinds of activities, the world closes in on them and their outlook on life narrows,” Kay states.

The transportation services exist primarily to take people to and from the senior center, which restricts many members from making the most they can out of the facility, Kay said.

With a schedule that has not been updated in years, people find themselves out of their homes for extended periods of time during trips that should only take up to an hour.

“Sometimes the buses arrive in time for a class, and sometimes they don’t. Services can be unreliable and at times non-existent,” Kay said.

Seniors also face restrictions when it comes to food shopping. The South Brunswick buses provide transportation once a week for one hour, as each shopper is only allowed three bags of groceries that must be able to fit on their laps or at their feet.

When running errands, both seniors and the disabled can only be taken to one place of choice that runs strictly along route 27. Each person is given only a half hour to run the errand, but the trips take about 4 to 5 hours as a whole.

“Please know that in criticizing South Brunswick transportation, I am not finding fault with the employees who deliver the services.They are cheerful, friendly and helpful. The problem appears to be lack of knowledgable, committed leadership,” Kay explains.

In the past, with the help of AIPP, the transportation advisory board was able to give South Brunswick township their first county shuttle service. When attempting to work out appropriate schedules, the township swept any requests under the rug.

In response, the South Brunswick Township Council felt that regardless of the current issues, problems involving the senior center have gotten better.

“Since I’ve been here 12 years, I certainly do accept and acknowledge that folks have criticism and we should take it and look at what they have to say,” Deputy Mayor Chris Killmurray stated.

The board mainly feels that for a small investment, adopting a model for curb to curb transportation service will save taxpayers money in the long run while providing residents with the services they need.

Starting such a program will double the trips involving the medical van each week, provide services during evenings and weekends, as well as during the week for all disabled workers to get to their job site.

Curb-to-curb transportation can also allow seniors and the disabled access to buses, shuttles, religious events, or even leisurely activities such as the movies or library. “By helping to provide choices in activities and transportation, you will be acknowledging that our older and disabled residents are valued members of the community,” Kay states.

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