The Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) Transportation Voucher Program has been selected for a 2019 Excellence in Regional Transportation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). DETCOG and the Area Agency on Aging launched the pilot program in 2018 to provide monthly vouchers to seniors in five counties to pay for rides to medical appointments, shopping trips, and social events.
WTI, in partnership with the National Association of Development Organizations Research Foundation and the USDA, provided technical assistance to help create and launch the program. The project was a team effort by Principal Investigator David Kack, who spearheaded the partnership with NADO; Project Manager Natalie Villwock-Witte, who worked closely with Laura Fay to develop the program framework, conducted outreach to potential program participants, and analyzed the use of the program; and Neil Hetherington, who created numerous original training and promotion materials. “It’s rewarding to develop an effective public transportation program for a rural area where there are so few travel options,” Natalie noted; “it’s even more gratifying when you find out that it’s making a real difference in the lives of residents who may use the program to go buy fresh, healthy food or to connect with friends and family.”
NADO is a Washington, DC-based association that promotes programs and policies to strengthen local governments, communities, and economies through regional cooperation, program delivery, and comprehensive strategies. The Excellence in Regional Transportation Awards showcase organizations for noteworthy projects and practices in rural and small metropolitan transportation planning, program delivery, and special initiatives. Winners will receive their awards at the 2019 National Regional Transportation Conference in June.
Last week, Explore Big Sky published a special feature on its picks for the most important local news stories of the year. Top of the list – the $10 million federal TIGER grant awarded to the Big Sky, Montana region for roadway, transit, and trail improvements. In the article, WTI Program Manager David Kack discusses working with partners in the Big Sky community to identify critical transportation needs and develop the successful proposal. More information about the grant is available on the WTI news page.
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.
For the second time in less than six months, TR News magazine has selected a WTI project for its “Research Pays Off” section, which highlights research that has produced tangible and valuable benefits. “Wyoming Intercity Bus Service Study: Finding and Filling the Gaps in Rural Areas” is featured in the March/April 2018 issue of TR News, published by the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board. Authored by Principal Investigator David Kack, the article describes a project conducted for the Wyoming Department of Transportation to identify potential Intercity bus routes that would increase access for underserved communities. The study led directly to the expansion of available services after a transportation provider contacted the Wyoming DOT to initiate a partnership that resulted in new service on one of the identified routes. The full article is posted on the project page.
The November/December 2017 issue of TR News highlighted the One-Stop Shop Traveler Information project in the “Research Pays Off” feature. This article is also available on the WTI website.
(TR News is copyright, National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; posted with permission of the Transportation Research Board.)