Laura Fay, David Kack and Natalie Villwock-Witte (PI) recently traveled to the Jasper, Texas area for six meetings related to the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) transportation voucher program. This pilot project will show how transportation vouchers can be used to provide basic mobility to those who have limited options. Meetings were held in Jasper, as well as Ivanhoe, Newton, Pineland and San Augustine. Similar to many rural areas in Montana, people in the DETCOG area often travel 45 miles or so (one way) for groceries, medical care, and other essential services. Currently, this pilot project is focused on those who are 60 years old or older. The long-term vision is to secure additional funding so that those with low incomes or a disability will also be able to use the voucher program.
The pilot program should start in May and will include approximately 25 participants. Demand for the vouchers already exceeds existing funding, so data from the pilot project will be used to reach out to potential funding sources. The WTI staff is supporting the DETCOG staff to ensure that this program can grow and meet the needs in this rural part of Texas. The new program was big news in the City of Ivanhoe – the photo shows the City marquee informing community members about the meeting to discuss the voucher program.
David Kack, WTI’s Mobility and Public Transportation Manager, traveled to Washington D.C. last week to participate in the First Annual National Mobility Summit. This event, sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, was designed to enable a discussion among all of the University Transportation Centers (UTCs) that focused on the topic of mobility. Nine UTCs representing 48 colleges and universities attended, along with representatives from USDOT, the Department of Energy, and several other mobility related entities (for a total attendance of about 60 people).
David gave a ten-minute presentation on both the Small Urban and Rural Livability Center (SURLC), as well as the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM). During a reception, David displayed a Poster and discussed the challenges of providing mobility in rural and tribal areas. Carnegie Mellon University expects this to be an annual event for the next four years.
Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM), led by WTI was selected by USDOT as Tier 1 University Transportation Center, and will receive approximately $1.5 million a year for up to five years to lead research that improves the mobility of people and goods. Montana State University published a feature article about the selection on its website, and the story was also picked up by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.