Covering Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties, Wildwood’s Transportation Department (lovingly referred to as the (Mighty Transportation Department) keeps everyone moving safely and on time.
Eleven drivers transport between 70-75 individuals every day to three Wildwood locations day program sites: Pinecrest, New Karner and Riverside.
Drivers do door-to-door service, and provide continuity and security through consistent daily routines and long-term relationships. The logistics involved in a daily operation of this size require regular monitoring and oversight. Someone is always in the dispatcher role to provide guidance and assistance that may be re quired throughout the day.
Drivers are an important part of the supports offered. More than just drivers, they are a part of the therapeutic team and their consistency, good humor and empathic nature goes way beyond driving a vehicle.
“Drivers can be comedians, psychiatrists, disciplinarians, caregivers and listeners- all in one trip!” James Kardell, Supervisor of Transportation and a 17-year employee says.
Drivers are trained and annually updated on all facets of their job. They are dedicated to providing high-quality, comfortable rides for all individuals. No aides are needed and many of the routes have been geographically consolidated to shorten ride times and be more cost effective. The Transportation Department offices are centrally located in Building #1 in Latham.
The fleet, which includes three buses and nine transit vans, is regularly maintained. In addition, the department makes sure that the rest of the agency's 102 fleet vehicles have regular oil changes and other needed maintenance. Centralized purchasing and maintenance also make significant savings possible.
During COVID, even though day programs were suspended, the department was very busy,” James Kardell says. “We helped deliver backpacks of food for the school, medical supplies and masks for the residential sites, picked up and delivered books for the Sharing is Caring program and even helped with grocery shopping.”
Participants not attending day service programs also impacted funding and created challenges. Even with these challenges, the transportation department was able to keep all their staff working and on the payroll. As participants started to come back to a split programming schedule due to COVID, routes were divided and two separate shifts were required.
With COVID restrictions starting to be lifted just this month, more people are now allowed to ride in each van and day programming has a single start and end time.
Les Arras, Director of the Transportation Department, is happy to report that programming is almost at full capacity and things are close to normal again. Arras provided road reports for all staff during inclement weather over the last two years. He always strives to have his department add value to the agency.
"Our department has come through strongly. We really are mighty and our strength comes from the great people we have working in our department.”