The Transportation Planning Board in June approved more than $3 million in grants for a number of initiatives in the Washington region to assist low-income individuals and persons with disabilities in meeting their everyday mobility needs.
The 10 approved projects would together receive about $2 million in funding from the Federal Transit Administration, pending approval from the agency later this year, while the organizations or agencies slated to receive the money and carry out the projects would contribute about $1 million in matching funds.
The federal portion of the funding will come under two FTA programs, both administered in the Washington region by the TPB. One is the Job Access and Reverse Commute program, known as JARC, which supports efforts to improve access to job sites and job-related activities for people with limited incomes. The other, New Freedom, supports initiatives to expand transportation options for people with disabilities and to provide services above and beyond what is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Courtesy: Yellow Cab of Prince William County
Three of the latest projects approved by the TPB will provide low-interest car loans to working families in the District of Columbia and Prince George's County, purchase new wheelchair-accessible taxicabs in Prince William County, and support the ongoing operation of existing wheelchair-accessible taxicab service in the District.
Two other projects will provide women living in transitional housing for single mothers and their families with taxi vouchers to attend job training or reach job sites, and help offenders from correctional institutions in Fairfax County enter the workforce by providing transportation services to job sites that are not transit-accessible.
Since 2007, the TPB has awarded more than $21 million in funding to 59 different JARC or New Freedom projects in the Washington region.
Many are continuing to provide valuable services, including: a website and call center known as "Reach-a-Ride" that offers individuals with specialized transportation needs a way to identify transportation options and find providers in their area; travel training programs to help individuals with disabilities learn how to use the region's public transit system; and wheelchair-accessible taxicab service in the District.
All of the projects have provided valuable direct services to users, and also serve as examples or models of successful initiatives that other jurisdictions or organizations in the region can replicate.
This is the last year that initiatives like these will receive funding under JARC and New Freedom, as both programs were eliminated or merged with other programs under last year's federal surface transportation authorization -- Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21. However, federal dollars for such efforts will continue to flow to the region under the new law. Although MAP-21 eliminated the JARC program, it charged the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority with carrying out job access and reverse commute activities. The law also created a new program, Enhanced Mobility, to support efforts to improve mobility for people with disabilities and older adults.
About $2.8 million a year will be available under the new Enhanced Mobility program, which combines New Freedom and another earlier program -- Transportation for Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities. The TPB will be the designated recipient for the Enhanced Mobility funding, with responsibility for selecting projects and administering the funds. The TPB is expected to conduct the first solicitation for funding under the program in early 2014.
With its recent approval of projects under the JARC and New Freedom programs, and its responsibility for selecting future projects under the Enhanced Mobility program in the new federal law, the Transportation Planning Board has a continuing role in helping low-income individuals and persons with disabilities meet their everyday mobility needs. Partnering with community groups, non-profit organizations, private transportation companies, and government agencies to fund such initiatives, the TPB is helping to enhance access and mobility for traditionally transportation-disadvantaged individuals throughout the region.