FTA awards $2.2 million to local agencies to help military veterans access transit services

From left, Ken Coleman (L.A. Safe) Mark Maloney (Access Services) FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan and Metro Deputy CEO Paul Taylor. Photo by Gary Leonard

Here is the news release from the Federal Transit Administration:

LOS ANGELES –Deputy Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan (in above photo with Metro officials) was in Los Angeles today to announce that two Southern California transit agencies will receive a total of $2.2 million as part of a $34.6 million program that will greatly enhance access to local, affordable transportation services for military families and spouses, and wounded warriors.

Today’s announcement complements the Obama Administration’s Joining Forces initiative led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. This comprehensive, national effort is mobilizing all sectors of society to give our service members and their families’ critical opportunities and support.

“The Obama Administration is committed to providing our military veterans and their families with the resources they need and deserve,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “These projects will better connect them with a range of reliable, affordable transportation options so they can get to work as well as the supermarket, their kid’s day care center, medical facilities, and other destinations.”

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority will receive $2 million to make it easier than ever for veterans, and others, to get up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information on Southern California’s 511 line using either a mobile phone or by going online. And Omnitrans, which serves San Bernardino’s sizable military community, will receive $227,240 to improve its 211 help-line, so that all the information about local transportation and other services is just a mouse click away.

The $34.6 million was awarded to 55 projects in 32 states and Guam. A complete list of funded projects is available at http://fta.dot.gov/grants/13094.html.

Many military families live in suburban and rural communities where filling the gas tank for long commutes is expensive and public transportation is limited. Projects funded by the Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative will bridge the gap by enabling states and communities to build or expand so-called “one-click, one-call” centers that offer comprehensive information on local transportation options, and other community services, with just a single phone call or click of the mouse. Typically, such information is not available in one convenient place, and better local coordination will result in better services for veterans and nonveterans alike.

“Military families and veterans in Southern California must be able to take full advantage of the transportation resources in their communities,” said Peter Rogoff, Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which manages the grants through its discretionary Bus and Bus Facilities Program. “Every service member who returns home or a spouse who relocates to a new community deserves the best possible chance to earn a reliable paycheck and that means having access to reliable transportation choices.”

The Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative is led by the federal Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility, a permanent partnership of federal departments working together to better coordinate federal programs on behalf of people with disabilities, the elderly and low-income individuals. The Council is chaired by Secretary LaHood.

In addition to USDOT, the Department of Veterans Affairs is contributing up to $3 million for the VA health care network to coordinate veterans’ transportation needs with community transportation systems. The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy is contributing $250,000 for social media tools and training to include veterans and the military in community transportation decision-making. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense are also lending critical support, in part through their extensive networks of community-based advocates. Additional in-kind support is provided by over a dozen national veteran service organizations.

Today’s announcement supports President Obama’s Veterans Employment Initiative, an ongoing effort to win major private sector commitments to veteran and military spouse employment. To date, 96 companies have formed a public-private partnership with the Department of Defense to hire military spouses. And more than 25 individual companies have committed to veteran hiring or training targets, including, most recently, the American Logistics Association and its affiliates, which pledge to hire 25,000 veterans and spouses by the end of 2013. For more information visit: www.whitehouse.gov/joiningforces.

Additional information on the Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative is available here.