OLR Research Report

February 17, 2005




By: Helga Niesz, Principal Analyst

You asked for information on a public/private partnership concept called “Independent Transportation Network,” which could provide transportation for senior citizens.


The Independent Transportation Network (ITN) is a private, nonprofit community organization in the greater Portland, Maine area that uses passenger automobiles to transport seniors and visually impaired people. It operates with a combination of volunteers and paid drivers and obtains its operating funds through memberships in the organization, riders' fares, and support from individuals, community businesses, and private foundations. One of its goals is to provide an economically “sustainable” service to people who can no longer drive safely.

A related nonprofit entity, ITNAmerica, is in the process of planning a program to replicate the ITN model in other communities nationally. Federal legislation to provide seed money for the national replication was proposed in Congress last year, but did not pass. It may be proposed again in 2005.


How It Works

ITN is a private, nonprofit community organization in the greater Portland, Maine area that uses passenger automobiles to provide transportation for people age 65 or older who can no longer drive safely and visually impaired people of any age. The program has operated within a 15-mile radius of the city for nine years. There are no restrictions on the trip's purpose; it can be for medical appointments, shopping, social visits, or any other purpose.

ITN relies on a combination of volunteer and paid drivers, who provide the riders with “door-through-door” service, assist them in getting in and out of the vehicles, help them with their packages, and put their wheelchairs, if they need them, in the car trunk. Volunteers use their own cars to drive people, but the organization also has a small fleet of donated cars (currently three), which are driven by paid drivers. Volunteers perform many of the organization's office activities and outreach functions. Volunteer drivers receive a small mileage reimbursement and, through volunteering, can build up credits for their own transportation later if they have to give up driving in the future. Or they can donate their stored credits to relatives or friends or to needy riders.

In FY 04 the organization provided over 15,000 one-way trips (65% provided by paid drivers and 35% by volunteers). ITN uses computer software to plan the most efficient way of providing the requested rides and scheduling its employees and volunteers. Currently ITN has about 1,150 riders, six part-time, paid drivers, and 50 volunteers.

ITN had a total FY 04 budget of $211,000. It is funded by fares charged to its riders, private donations, and donations from individuals, foundations, and local businesses. Potential riders become members of the organization and open prepaid “transportation accounts.” Riders receive a monthly statement and no money changes hands at the car. ITN also accepts donations of cars for its fleet and elderly people can trade their own car which they can no longer drive to ITN and receive a credit for their future transportation from the organization. The program does not receive tax money for its continuing operations; it is a nonprofit organization but one of its goals is to be an economically “sustainable” solution to seniors' transportation problems.

Costs to Riders

Specific fares are determined by several factors: the mileage, the time the trip takes, whether the riders are willing to share a ride with others, and whether they can plan ahead for the trip or need service immediately. The average charge per trip is around $7.50 with a minimum charge of $5. There is a 15% discount for sharing the ride and a 50% discount for advance planning. Fares do not cover the full cost of the rides ($13.81 per trip on average). Some donated funds are used specifically to provide rides for low-income people who cannot afford the fares (called a “Road Scholarship”). As noted, volunteers can also contribute some of their accumulated credits for this purpose.

Other Sources of Financial Support

Having a diversified base of local community support, both in terms of financial support and volunteers, is important for maintaining the organization's continued sustainability. To accomplish this, the organization engages in a number of innovative marketing techniques. One of these is allowing corporations, businesses, doctors, assisted living developments, or other entities to become members and to contribute funds to pay for the rides of their clientele. For instance, a store might pay for elderly shoppers to be brought to its location or a medical group could pay for its patients. Adult children can buy gift certificates from the organization to transport their parents. Individuals who are not riders can also become members as a way of supporting the organization. Volunteers sponsor “community teas” to inform their friends and neighbors about the service.


With an example of a working model in place in Portland, a related national nonprofit organization, ITNAmerica, is now planning a national “rollout” to replicate the model in other locations. Planning for the national expansion is taking place with grants from the Federal Transit Administration and private foundation funding, according to its president and executive director, Katherine Freund. Local organizations can affiliate with the national organization and receive assistance in planning and technical assistance with outreach, marketing, and computer software to schedule their operations. The organization is currently working with groups in Orlando, Florida; Santa Monica, California; and Lincoln, Nebraska; and with the New Jersey Foundation for Aging and New Jersey state transportation officials to potentially replicate ITN in those locations, according to Freund.

Florida currently is developing five senior safe driving centers throughout the state, administered by the Bureau of Highway Safety, which handle assessment, counseling, and transition to alternative transportation.  According to Freund, a bill is currently being drafted in the Florida legislature to expand that program's functions and, in addition, implement the ITN replication plan in Orlando with some state funding. The Orlando replication will follow the ITNAmerica guideline that every public dollar must be matched with a private dollar and that funds, whether for planning or implementation, are not renewable.


Last year, Senator Susan Collins and Congressman Tom Allen of Maine proposed legislation in Congress to provide funding for the ITN five-year national rollout in the form of $25,000 planning grants and implementation grants on a competitive basis to communities that want to replicate the ITN model. The bill did not pass and similar legislation may be proposed again this year.


ITN and ITN America websites at:

“Surviving Without Driving” A Power Point Presentation by ITN executive director Katherine Freund to the New Jersey Foundation on Aging, Sept. 28, 2004: