Buda strives to satisfy senior transit needs

The rollout of an updated transportation service aimed at helping area seniors could be on the horizon in Buda.

City officials now hope the Buda Seniors Taking a Ride (STAR) program can fulfill one of several needs Buda is addressing for its aging population.

“The big thing was that our seniors felt like there is a lack of transportation services in our area,” said David Marino, Buda public information officer. “We are working hard to make sure they have different opportunities for that.”

Buda STAR is an upgrade to the city’s Senior Transportation Program (STP), which was established in 2005. The STP offers to transport independent ambulatory seniors to the grocery store or doctor’s office.

However, Marino said people didn’t realize the service existed. That issue was put in the spotlight when the city received results from a 2017 citizen survey on how to best meet the needs of Buda seniors.

The survey, which received 102 respondents, showed seniors didn’t feel they were able to access necessary information, as well as a lack of senior transportation. The results also led to the creation of Buda’s Task Force on Aging (TFA).

The survey also provided a way for the city to utilize a 5310 grant that was awarded to Buda in 2016 by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

The grant program provides funding to states to assist private, nonprofit groups meet the transportation needs of older adults and people with disabilities. Through the program, the FTA covers up to 80 percent of the total cost, with Buda covering up to 20 percent.

Buda received a grant for the purchase of an 11-seat, American Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible van to use for its program. Prior to the grant, Buda’s STP van did notmeet ADA standards.

“What this new van does is it gives us an ADA accessible vehicle that is user friendly for the senior population,” Marino said.

Cathy Metzler, a member of Buda’s TFA, said helping find a way to improve senior transportation was high on its priority list.

But the TFA also continues to tackle several additional issues seniors are experiencing. One is the ability to access information and resources for services, such as healthcare.

One way to combat that issue was creating a page on the city website where residents can find resources “all in one place,” Marino said.

However, Metzler said there is a section of Buda’s aging population that may not have access to the internet or the ability to reach the website.

“The hope is that a family member or caregiver would have access and get that information on their behalf,” Metlzer said.

The TFA is also looking at ways to improve medical care for seniors. Metzler said the TFA is currently studying the prospect of a senior resource center, but she added the idea is still in its infancy.

Senior-related affordable housing is an equally large issue to tackle for the TFA. Metzler cited the long waiting lists at area senior living facilities.

Metzler believes the influx of seniors moving to Buda is their desire to live closer to their children and grandchildren.

For Metzler, how to best approach assisting Buda seniors is an ever-changing process.

“This is still being developed and it will be for a while to come,” Metzler said. “However, Buda did a survey … it shows they’re curious about it. It’s inspiring to see Buda take an interest.”

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