When we talk about public transportation, it's all too easy to picture big city subways and wide avenues with bus stops on each block. But for much of our country, transit service can actually be quite different. It means rural service with isolated bus stops or transit vans available by appointment.
No matter how transit looks in your community, DOT wants to make sure you can ride it where you need to go.
So, if you're a veteran who needs reliable access to medical services, a job, or school, we're working to get you there. If you live in a remote town in the mountains and commute miles to work over a narrow, winding road, we're working to get you there. And if you live outside a small town with infrequent county bus service to the nearest grocery store, we're working to get you there, too.
The unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is more than 12 percent, more than four percentage points above the national average. Yet these same veterans have the skills and real life experience that we need to help rebuild America. Why not remove some of the barriers that stand in the way of their success, including the ability to get to a worksite or job training center?
So yesterday, our Federal Transit Administration took another step forward in transit services for America's heroes with $29 million in grants to improve access to local transportation for veterans and their families, wounded warriors and other military personnel. FTA's Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative supports local governments and transit agencies that want to make it easier for veterans and others to access and schedule rides on available buses, vans, taxis and other transportation systems.
From transit resource centers to smartphone apps, VTCLI grants will help connect veterans and military families with the jobs and training opportunities they deserve and the medical care and other services they need. President Obama has asked that we serve our veterans as well as they’ve served us. Connecting these men and women to services and opportunities is the least we can do.
For someone who lives in Rifle or Carbondale and commutes to Aspen every day, this bus service means saving hundreds of dollars on gas and vehicle wear and tear each month. And I don’t need to tell you that hundreds of dollars in a family's budget each month is a big deal--it means groceries, electricity, or heat.
At the construction site of a future VelociRFTA park-and-ride lot; photo courtesy Kelley Cox, Post Independent
And not only will the buses be efficient and cost-effective, but they will also be high tech. Features of the new service include priority travel lanes that keep buses moving through traffic lights, real-time information to let riders know when the next bus will arrive, and bus shelters to protect passengers from rain and snow.
Even better for the workers I met yesterday? The many jobs this project is creating for Coloradans.
Public transportation means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and the variety of transit projects we support--rural and urban--cover a lot of ground. But above all, better transit means better access to opportunity. Wherever that takes you, DOT is trying to help you get there.