Ed. Note: Cross-posted from the DOT blog.
Our nation is tremendously grateful for the sacrifices America’s armed forces and their families are making every day, and the Obama Administration is committed to giving them the opportunities and support they have certainly earned.
Last week, the Federal Transit Administration launched a new initiative to help ensure that getting a ride to work, day care, or to a medical appointment is no longer an obstacle for veterans or their families. The Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative will award grants to local transportation providers and other groups around the country so they can better coordinate and deliver important transit information through “one-call” or “one click” centers.
All too often, our veterans face serious transportation challenges at home. For instance, rising gas prices have hit military families' budgets hard. And roughly 4 in 10 veterans--including our younger Iraq and Afghanistan veterans--live in rural areas where affordable transportation options are often limited, and where it's necessary to travel great distances to receive medical care, reach employment centers, and access other services to which they are entitled.
While public transportation services might be available, coordinating and using those services can be too complicated. Our veterans and their families deserve convenient, ready access.
One-call and one-click centers are a proven way to solve that problem. This initiative will help create, expand, or upgrade those centers across the nation. With just one phone call or visit to a friendly website, military families can learn about the availability of commuter van services that travel to employment centers, vehicles equipped with wheelchair lifts that can provide rides to a local rehab center, or buses that stop by the local mall. Coordinating this information in one convenient place will also help save transit agencies money by eliminating redundant service and outreach.
Of all our public transportation initiatives, I don't know of one that is more important than this. We have long known that mobility is a key factor in the ability to take advantage of the terrific opportunities our society offers. Helping to deliver that mobility to America's veterans and their families is a mission the FTA is proud to undertake.
As FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said, “Every service member who returns home or relocates to a new community should have a reliable ride to earn a reliable paycheck. Military families and veterans must be able to take full advantage of the transportation resources in their communities.”
One terrific feature of the new initiative is the broad partnership that created it. Our grants to communities and transit agencies will be complemented by training, technical assistance, outreach, and social media technology investments provided by FTA and other participating agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Labor. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense are also lending critical support. The success of this partnership is very promising.
Our veterans and their families have made tremendous sacrifices for our nation. The Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative is one way to honor that sacrifice. As President Obama has said, "They have done their duty, and now we must do ours."
Ray LaHood is Secretary of Transportation.