Arapahoe County residents who can’t drive have an ally

Nonprofit works to connect public to ‘Transportation Solutions’ in Arapahoe County

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For seniors and people with disabilities or low income, navigating a car-centric world can be a daily hurdle.

That’s why a Centennial resident has been working for years to connect the public to transportation options that most Coloradans might not know about.

The effort to spread the word is “pretty much for people who can’t or don’t drive — and there’s a heck of a lot of them out there,” said Andrea Suhaka, the leader of a new nonprofit that works to address the issue.

Suhaka leads the organization called Transportation Solutions Arapahoe County, a body that acts as the “local coordinating council” for transportation resources in Arapahoe. A local coordinating council can consist of businesses, nonprofits and other community organizations working together to broaden access to transportation.

The Denver Regional Mobility and Access Council acts as a “parent company,” or an umbrella organization, over the local coordinating councils in Denver metro counties, according to Suhaka.

The entity that eventually became Suhaka’s Transportation Solutions nonprofit began meeting in 2012. In pursuit of funding for her group’s mission, Suhaka took the route of forming a nonprofit.

“Because to collect (funding) from nonprofits, we needed to be a nonprofit,” Suhaka said.

Transportation Solutions Arapahoe County officially became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in December 2020. What that means for Arapahoe County is that more residents in different areas may catch wind of resources available to them — or even see new resources as a result of Suhaka’s bringing potential partners to the table in different cities or towns.

RTD is the “big gorilla” in the picture of local transportation, but many people can’t afford RTD service, or it doesn’t go where they need it to, Suhaka said.

Take rural Arapahoe County areas, for example. In the Strasburg, Bennett and Byers areas, seniors say they need better transportation, Suhaka hears.

The Bustang is a CDOT — Colorado Department of Transportation — program that provides buses, and the Bustang Outrider service stretches around the state. Suhaka is working to nail down an agreement for bus service that would go through Strasburg and Bennett and Byers — communities in the areas along Interstate 70, she said.

Suhaka, a former Centennial city councilmember who was elected in 2001 and served until 2008, has lived in the same house for 47 years in what is now Centennial.

She’s passionate about an idea for a transportation route that runs from The Streets at SouthGlenn outdoor mall — at University Boulevard and Arapahoe Road in west Centennial — to the Centennial city hall via Dry Creek Road. She hopes for a system where drivers get a call and pick up riders by request along that route.

“The city seems to think that’s a reasonable idea,” but it doesn’t seem to be a priority, said Suhaka, 73.

She added that the older population in Centennial appears to be between SouthGlenn and the RTD light rail route and that she doesn’t hear “a whole lot” of need from the city’s eastern end.

Members of Suhaka’s nonprofit include the Cities of Englewood and Centennial, The Arc of Aurora, The Arc of Arapahoe and Douglas counties, and Arapahoe County. Suhaka is the only individual member at this point, but the public is welcome to get involved.

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