I agree to Idea Transit Benefits for Veterans with new VA SmartCard ID
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Transit Benefits for Veterans with new VA SmartCard ID

We should discuss how to provide public transportation to all Veterans (at no cost to the Veteran), with fares reimbursed to the transit agencies by the Federal Government. To accomplish this, I suggest we redesign the VA ID Card so that the Federal Government can reimburse Public Transit agencies for providing transit services to all military Veterans.

From a policy standpoint, it would be ideal if the reimbursement could be used by Transit Agencies for either operating costs or capital expeditures.

Providing national public transit service benefits to all registered Veterans nationwide would allow many Veterans the opportunity to remain independent and improve their quality of life, especially as many Veterans struggle with transportation issues and reduced mobility due to their military service or age.

One useful by-product of this policy would be that it would yield data which Transit Agencies and the DOT could utilize to identify patterns of use and areas of need, in order to allocate resources more efficiently.

Additionally, this federal policy can be implemented with little or no initial cost as it utilizes existing public transit systems nationwide. In fact, the only start-up costs would involve developing new VA ID Cards with similar features to the ID Cards for Active or Retired Military. Another minor cost would involve RFID card readers at vending machines or on vehicles.

Submitted by SG 2 years ago

Events

  1. The idea was posted
    2 years ago

Comments (15)

  1. This is a very interesting and innovative idea.

    2 years ago
    1 Agreed
    1. SG Idea Submitter

      Thank you Mary. For this idea to take flight, we'd need to establish and maintain the broad coalitions you suggested in another post.

      2 years ago
      0 Agreed
    2. This is a great idea, but (always the dang but) I worry about the cost implications. PA uses the lottery to pay for transit for seniors. it is very very expensive, it uses up much of the lottery income for an entire state. figure it cost about $3 per individual trip on a bus and about $35 per trip on paratransit. with the folks in DC I wonder where this money would come from. the Transit systems are basically broke and the congress has not passed a transportation funding bill since the last one expired several years age, just continuing resolutions which does nothing more than extend the current funding.

      the FTA already maintains the national transit database so adding this into it would probably not be a major issue and could provide usefull data.

      Bob

      2 years ago
      1 Agreed
  2. Sergio - great idea to use this as a tool to assess patterns of use. Even as a pilot program for a limited period of time, this would provide valuable information to all involved to meet an actual need.

    2 years ago
    1 Agreed
    1. SG Idea Submitter

      Thanks Maureen. This type of data would help transit agencies, healthcare providers and the Veterans Administration to allocate their resources in preparation for peak times. In addition, and as a secondary benefit, this program would encourage Veterans to use public transit, thereby helping to reduce traffic congestion nationwide. We'll have to wait and see if anyone else agrees.

      2 years ago
      0 Agreed
  3. Would this be ADA Paratransit services if the individual qualifies? There are always boundaries in the areas that are covered and jurisdiction issues. Or Would they purchase every Vet public transit fixed route passes? Two things to consider.

    2 years ago
    1 Agreed
    1. SG Idea Submitter

      Yes, ADA services should be included for those who qualify. The suggested policy would allow Veterans to use fixed route bus/rail service and paratransit accessible services if qualified. I understand there are service area boundaries and at this point we'd need observe those parameters. Obviously, transporation from a rural area would need to be addressed through rural providers; however, the overall framework of reimbursement for public transit services for Veterans using their ID Card would remain the same.

      2 years ago
      1 Agreed
  4. You wouldn't even necessarily need a new ID card. I'm a veteran and a student, and through my tuition, my public transportation costs are paid for by the university. All they do is obtain a sticker from the regional transit authority and put it on the ID card. I just flash my ID when I get on the bus/train and the university and transit work out the billing - out of sight, out of mind. I work in a program that helps homeless veterans get employed and transportation is one of the MAJOR barriers. In Denver, it's expensive and not nearly expansive enough - many of our workers we also have to provide bicycles to get to their place of employment as the schedules and routes are too limited. While something like this won't assist everyone in our program (not everyone is eligible for VA services) it would put a big enough dent, and provide enough support, that we could free up considerable funds for training and certification.

    2 years ago
    1 Agreed
    1. SG Idea Submitter

      Thank you Dana, those are great points. I suspect that your transportation costs with RTD may actually be funded by student fees rather than tuition, but I understand what you're saying. In fact, the reason I suggested updating the VA ID card is to take advantage of new technology and applications, such as the RFID tag on your student ID. As a Veteran and former student, I can certainly appreciate the fact that your university provides this service, and I'm merely suggesting that the VA do the same for all Veterans nationwide, whether enrolled in school or not. As for our homeless veterans, if they're eligible for VA services, then they would be eligible for these public transit services as well. Not surprisingly, homeless Veterans are probably the one group who would use this service as their sole source of transportation. Best of luck in your studies and thanks for helping out fellow Vets.

      2 years ago
      0 Agreed
  5. SmartCard technology is aging fast - SEPTA in Philadelphia is well on the way to replace it, and WMATA in DC is on that path as well. The trend is towards cell phone credit/debit cards, which can also be mounted on fobs and in other ways.

    2 years ago
    1 Agreed
    1. SG Idea Submitter

      I realize that all technology is at-risk of being overtaken by the next big advancement; however, I do like the idea of proximity fobs, especially since older veterans may not use cell phones or Smartphones, and homeless veterans may be unable to afford such luxuries. Nevertheless, your point is well-taken and thank you for your comments.

      2 years ago
      0 Agreed
  6. Great idea SG!

    2 years ago
    1 Agreed
    1. SG Idea Submitter

      Thanks.

      2 years ago
      0 Agreed
  7. i would suggest that via sliding scale all vets get a free or min charge on monthly bus passes and those who cant take a bus due to disability or have other very specific issues to qualify , like homelessness , get a monthly gas card for free or reduced rate - sliding scale too. Many vets are not aware they can get a disability or senior fare now. Some communities have ACCESS services for people with disabilities who can't take the bus , you must apply ahead, though it is not so reliable and scheduling can be difficult and must be done in advance/ No ER transport, and you can realistically only get to one place and back in one day , and it's about 5$ round trip near me, it can help. when i was homeless they argued, but i won and had a cellphone and had them pick up and drop me at Starbucks- my home away from home.

    2 years ago
    1 Agreed
    1. SG Idea Submitter

      A sliding scale is good but the complex task of establishing eligibility becomes an administrative bureaucracy, which adds a substantial cost to a program before one penny of benefit is even distributed. My initial idea involves providing a transit benefit to all veterans, regardless of income. I'm not opposed to creating bureaucracy when needed but given the choice, I feel it's better to spend money on reimbursing transit agencies for actual trips, instead of paying for administrative overhead and paperwork. Nevertheless, your suggestion is well-taken along with yout ideas regarding gas cards and reduced fares. Thanks for your comments!

      2 years ago
      0 Agreed