News & Events
New transportation center will help people with special needs
Snyder Corp. opened its new building at the We Care headquarters in Buffalo
Orginial article appeared in Buffalo News - Sept. 11, 2007 by Michelle Kearns
After Paul Snyder bought the We Care bus system out of bankruptcy for $570,000 in 2005, he then invested about $5.5 million and added to it. He has built a new building and created a new business with a social edge to help make the local transportation system better for people with special needs, such as the elderly and people with disabilities.
The newly named “Center for Transportation Excellence” at 401 East Amherst St. is a new 20,000-square-foot building built around the original We Care transportation headquarters at the same address, where 180 people work. Their jobs, connected to making 1,200 daily trips for clients, will continue as the CTE, with 30 employees, evolves.
“We decided to find a solution for how a company could go bankrupt. So we created the center,” said Paul Snyder III, chief executive officer of Snyder Corp. with offices next to the Hyatt, which is one of the 12 or so businesses he owns.
He bought We Care after he was approached by people in the business and nonprofit community who knew the service was needed and were afraid for the clients who counted on the bus rides to get to work and doctor’s appointments. Snyder, whose company was started by his entrepreneurial father 50 years ago, had experience with transportation.
It is one of the company’s specialities as it coordinates car, bus and plane service for big public happenings, such as convention center events and the Dalai Lama’s visit last year. “When we look at transportation, we look at it from a point of designing systems,” said Snyder. “Transportation for us has always been an integral part of our business.”
The CTE is Snyder’s effort to use a business model to do social good, and is part of a national trend called “social entrepreneurship.” CTE, which had its new building finished last month and will have its grand opening Wednesday, took two years to plan. Now it has space and ideas for programs and services it hopes to win more clients for.
It has four classrooms, where people can take classes for commercial driver’s licenses. Soon the center wants to add on and teach people how to work with people with disabilities. Curriculum is now being developed with help from the Center for Urban Transportation Research in Tampa.
Its new repair and service garage can care for the 90 We Care fleet of vans and small buses. There is extra capacity for other potential clients, such as vehicles from any of the other transportation companies and nonprofits that serve people who are elderly or use wheelchairs.
“This facility is intend to provide services to any organization that has vehicles that serve the para-transit community,” Snyder said.
And, CTE has developed a system, with computer software, for coordinating rides. Standard procedure has included taking a call from someone who needs a ride to the doctor’s and then making more calls to figure out how to arrange it.
At CTE, a “mobility manager” instead uses the computer system to do the coordinating faster with We Care vehicles and others. Since August, the center has been been working with a $25,000 grant from Erie County Senior Services to coordinate rides that the county service can’t handle.
“We all have aging grandparents, and this type of transportation coordination is working to improve the quality of life for them and for others,” said Kelly Dixon, the director of the center who received her master’s in urban planning from University at Buffalo last year.
Now Snyder hopes to win his pending bid for a bigger job serving the county’s Medicaid clients, many of whom need rides for dialysis. The center was designed to stay on top of community needs with help from a 25-member advisory board from a range of local organizations, such as Jewish Family Services, Catholic Charities and United Way.
Snyder believes this kind of work is one way his family can make Buffalo a better place to live. And, he said, if it succeeds — “That’s one of the coolest things we can ever do.”