Office of Mobility and Accessible Transportation Aims to Reduce Barriers for Riders with Disabilities

/ August 16, 2022

By Emily Duchac

Two years ago, in March 2020, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the Tennessee Accessible Transportation and Mobility Act. This legislation created a new office in the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Office of Mobility and Accessible Transportation. It also required the new office to develop a mission and scope, a five-year strategic plan, and an annual report on mobility and accessible transportation in Tennessee.

Now, the Office of Mobility and Accessible Transportation has been established in TDOT and recently submitted the second annual report about accessible transportation in Tennessee to the Tennessee General Assembly.

What does the Office of Mobility and Accessible Transportation do?

The mission of the office is to provide resources and expertise for expanding and improving accessible transportation and mobility across the state. This mission has three key priorities:

  1. Shrinking gaps in access to appropriate transportation, so that people can find transportation when and where they need it.
  2. Establishing a pathway to integrated policies and cooperative actions, so that agencies communicate, work together, and have consistent transportation policies.
  3. Strengthening transportation independence for Tennesseans, so that people can get transportation and participate in their communities.

The mission and priorities are centered around making accessible transportation more widely available and easier to use, so that more Tennesseans, especially senior adults and individuals with disabilities, can get where they need and want to go.

Accessible transportation in Tennessee

Tennessee has public transportation available in all 95 counties, which helps many people get where they need to go.   All of Tennessee’s rural counties are served by the local human resource agency, or in the case of the South Central region, the local developmental district.  And the urban areas all have their own transit systems. Learn more about public transportation here.

However, not everyone has access to transportation when and where they need it. TDOT worked with experts in aging, disability, and transportation, including users of accessible transportation, to identify transportation needs, gaps, and solutions.

Many of the needs identified in the report centered on independence.  Without access to transportation, otherwise independent people may not be able to get the medical care they need, get to work, visit friends and family, or manage daily errands.  Transportation is also often a key component of community inclusion and the ability to participate fully in public life.

Our needs assessment found that in some cases, transportation options can be limited by geographic restrictions, hours and days of service, program eligibility restrictions, or the availability of an accessible vehicle. These limitations are often connected to limited funding. In other cases, people may not be able to get to available transportation options due to such issues, as inaccessible or poorly maintained sidewalks, lack of bus shelters, and a lack of crosswalks.  High fares, or difficulties getting to and from a bus stop, especially when the bus stop is located far away, can also prevent people from using transportation.

Finally, even when affordable public transportation is available at the right time and place, it may not meet every traveler’s needs. For example, some people may need personal assistance or specialized services that exceed public transportation requirements in order to get where they need to go.  Sometimes these services are available through another service, such as volunteer transportation, but not always.

One overarching need identified in the report, regardless of transportation availability, was communication. Often people have misunderstandings about what transportation is available and how to schedule a ride. Navigating the transportation system can be difficult or confusing, especially when multiple providers are involved or when the individual has communication barriers.

When transportation needs aren’t met, it has an immediate impact.  For example, one survey respondent said, “I often think about the people with more needs than I have. If I see this is a problem, what about them? I often consider moving, and the primary reason is lack of transportation options.”

In order to support independence and community inclusion, it’s important that these transportation needs are addressed, on both the local and state levels.

Office has strategic plan and annual report

The five-year Mobility and Accessible Transportation Strategic Plan guides mobility and accessible transportation improvements across the state.  This plan has five key strategic goals:

  1. Expanded Access: Help local providers expand and improve transportation services
  2. Service Solutions: Address barriers to transportation
  3. Collaboration: State and local agencies work together to fund transportation service
  4. Technology Solutions: Prioritize more user-focused transit technology
  5. Communication: Help travelers understand and access their transportation options

The second annual report expanded on these goals and provided recommended objectives for concrete improvements to accessible transportation in Tennessee. Several recommendations were provided for each goal to form a road map for the next five years. A few key objectives from the report include recommendations to support:

  1. Advanced transit technology, such as transit software and apps, that make transit systems more efficient and easier to use.
  2. Mobility management programs, which help connect customers to specialized transportation services, so they can get where they need to go.
  3. Stronger relationships between agencies that are invested in transportation for senior adults and individuals with disabilities, in order to better coordinate services, programs, and policies.

Finally, it’s important that the needs of aging Tennesseans and individuals with disabilities are considered from the very beginning when mobility services are improved and expanded.  The strategic goals and objectives are an important step forward in that direction and will help inform transportation decision-making across the state.

Get involved!

The full strategic plan and annual report are available online at our website,  For more information, or to share comments on accessible transportation in Tennessee, please visit our website or contact us at  Our office is truly interested in collecting Tennesseans’ comments as they help us build our annual report!

I appreciate Emily writing about the formation of the Office of Mobility and Accessible Transportation, its mission and its latest annual report. I know many individuals who want to work and who want to participate in more community activities find it difficult to do because they experience such difficulties finding affordable and accessible transportation. If you are having difficulties with transportation, I would encourage you to contact Emily’s office at the link above to share your comments, but I would also urge you to share the second annual report with your state representative and your state senator and include a brief description of what your experiences have been. They need to know about the issues facing their constituents. Here’s the link to the report: . If you have questions or comments, you can email me at Thank you for reading!

Emily Duchac supervises the Office of Mobility and Accessible Transportation at the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT).  In her role, she works to improve mobility across the state, especially for seniors and individuals with disabilities.   Before moving into her current position, she administered public transportation grant programs in TDOT’s Office of Public Transportation.

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