The U.S. Transportation Department has awarded $29 million to 64 projects meant to give former military personnel easier access to work, school and medical care.
Veterans may have navigated sands and sea, but when they return home they often face logistical challenges of a different sort as they try to fulfill such simple tasks as getting around town.
“For a lot of returning service members, there is one car and the spouse is using it to get to work,” said Peter Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration. “Complicating the problem is the fact that veterans live disproportionately in rural areas where transit options are less available.”
The new money comes through the Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative, overseen by the Federal Transit Administration. Funding will help local transit agencies put in place technology solutions that make it easier for veterans to access rides on existing transportation systems.
During the first round of grants in fiscal 2011, FTA supported 55 projects with $34.6 million. This year’s grants will support 64 projects in 33 states and the Northern Mariana Islands.
This year’s grants include a payment of $450,000 to Dayton, Ohio, where transit authorities will simplify access to rides via phone, smartphone and the Web. In Lee County, Fla., transportation planners will tap $1.4 million in funding to install schedule information kiosks at locations likely to be frequented by the community’s 220,000 veterans, such as a new Veterans Health Administration outpatient clinic.
In many municipalities, comprehensive transit information already exists, but it may be stored in a range of disconnected databases. FTA is looking for projects that consolidate that information in a way that makes scheduling easier for veterans in need of a ride.
Known generally as One-Call/One-Click, these technologies put all relevant information within reach. “This tries to warehouse all that information so that, by going to one website or calling one operator, a veteran can get an overview of all those different services,” Rogoff said.
In Iowa, the state’s Department of Transportation will use its $1.51 million grant to create a new database covering 99 counties. The new system will combine three existing databases to create a One-Call/ One-Click resource.
Logistical issues surrounding transportation can be “the biggest hindrance to connecting a returning veteran to the services he needs. That could be connecting to a job, but also connecting him or her to medical care, job training or rehabilitation services,” Rogoff said.
At the same time, improved transportation could help ease financial burdens on those returning home. “For most households, after housing, transportation is the biggest drain on the monthly income,” Rogoff said. “The cost of keeping cars on the road, car payments, insurance, taxi fares, these are a very big deal.”