Doris W. Kahn Accessible Transportation Award:
Naomi Armenta Keeps Alameda County’s Senior and Disabled Riders Moving
Naomi Armenta is on a crusade to provide a seamless experience for senior and disabled users of the public transit and paratransit services in Alameda County.
As a disabled professional woman living independently, Naomi Armenta relies on her wheelchair and the region’s public transit offerings to get around. Her deep familiarity with and passion for Bay Area transit inspired a career in transportation — as well as an awareness of transit’s gaps and potential for improvement.
Paratransit coordinator for the Alameda County Transportation Commission (Alameda CTC), Armenta is the recipient of the 2014 Doris W. Kahn Accessible Transportation Award (named after an MTC commissioner) for her commitment to providing access to quality transportation options for seniors and persons with disabilities.
Currently employed by the consulting firm NelsonNygaard, Armenta works as an in-house consultant for the Alameda CTC, where she’s been since 2006 and efficiently oversees approximately $10 million in annual sales tax funding for transportation for seniors and people with disabilities in Alameda County. Armenta’s personal experience makes her a powerful advocate for better transportation options for this population of riders — both on the job and in the leadership positions she holds.
“Not only is she an effective manager, she is also a strong advocate for the consumer,” said Art Dao, executive director of the Alameda CTC.
Armenta introduced an enhanced definition of mobility management to Alameda County, with the goal of providing a seamless experience for the rider. She secured federal funding to inventory all services available in the county — transit-provided paratransit service, city services and services run by nonprofit organizations — and to create a one-stop resource for senior and disabled residents.
Armenta is also responsible for revamping two existing county programs — the Hospital Discharge Transportation Service, which allows hospitals to arrange rides at the time of patient discharge, and the Wheelchair and Scooter Breakdown Transportation Service, which provides emergency rides when a user’s mobility device breaks down. Armenta figured out how to use limited funding most efficiently for the services, which are offered to eligible riders free of charge.
“Many of our programs are fast becoming the model for the Bay Area and across the state,” Dao said.
Armenta travels widely, exploring the nation’s and other countries’ transit systems. She is always on the lookout for new ideas.
“I consider Naomi a role model,” said Sylvia Stadmire, chair of the Alameda CTC’s Paratransit Advisory and Planning Committee. Armenta offers the committee her personal experience and thorough knowledge of the laws, regulations and funding sources applicable to transportation for seniors and people with disabilities.
On top of her full-time work, Armenta manages to squeeze in time for additional endeavors. In June of 2014, she earned her master’s degree in Transportation Management from the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University and was named MTI’s Student of the Year in 2014 by the Council of University Transportation Centers. Additionally, she is the current chair of the MTC Policy Advisory Council’s Equity and Access Subcommittee and the city of San Leandro’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. She also is active in the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS), earning the 2014 Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership Award from WTS’ San Francisco branch.
— Leslie Lara-Enriquez