VetsGO Offers "Beyond-the-Bus" Transportation Options

Over the last two months, I attended two veteran events in King County: the Auburn Veterans Day Parade and the Seattle Stand Down. Both were events that brought it all home and reminded me not only why I do what I do for a career, but also how important it is that the recognition, honoring, and support we give our veterans goes beyond November 11th every year.

While there are a number of government and community-based service programs to support King County veterans—housing, employment, financial assistance, and healthcare—access to them is often dependent on community transportation. Several transportation options exist in King County to help veterans, service members, and their families access employment, medical care, education, and community services; however, the transportation system is marked by fragmentation and lack of coordination between transportation service providers. The web of transportation services in King County includes, but is not limited to, public transit, community shuttles, senior services transportation, cabulances, taxis, ferries, ADA paratransit access providers, water taxis, VA shuttles and volunteer transportation services (DAV), and private volunteer transportation services.

Part of the challenge of improving transportation for veterans and service members is creating the awareness of the various "beyond-the-bus" transportation options. Although public transit, VA transportation services, and Veteran Service Organization transportation are services many veterans and services members are most familiar with, many are not aware of the transportation options available to them through area nonprofit and community-based organizations.

There are approximately 127,000 veterans and service members in King County and many are increasingly in need of access to transportation services for employment, medical care, education, and social services. Of the veteran population in King County, more than 80,000 (63 percent) are over the age of 55. Veterans from the Korean War and World War II are now in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, and may have had to hang up the car keys.

VetsGO works on mobile devices, too. Find transportation providers, access travels tools, and learn about great veteran services on the go!  

Many younger and more recent returning service members and veterans may be limited to a single car in their family. With limited financial resources, the car repairs are postponed as housing, food, and medical care become the priorities. Gaining employment often is the focus to support a car purchase or repair the one they have. In addition, both older veterans and those newly returning from Iraq and Afghanistan may have limited mobility due to a service-connected disability. Enabling easier access to employment therefore requires finding transportation options to suit their individual needs.

To help improve the mobility of veterans, service members, and their families in King County, Hopelink launched the VetsGO website last year. The website is funded by a Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative (VTCLI) grant. VTCLI is an innovative, federally-coordinated partnership that helps U.S. veterans, active service members, military families, and others connect to jobs and services in their communities by improving access to local transportation options.

The VTCLI program has two primary goals:

  1. To increase information about and access to transportation options, enabling full participation in communities for veterans, service members and families, particularly for those with disabilities.
  2. To create partnerships among the various stakeholders with an objective of increasing the availability, coordination and effectiveness of transportation services for veterans and military families that improves access to healthcare, jobs, and other community destinations.

Click on the image above to see images from the 49th Annual Veterans Day Parade & Observance in Auburn, Washington (November 8, 2014).

VetsGO is an online resource that aggregates a number of transportation providers—public transit, community vans/shuttles, specialized accessible vehicles, airport shuttles, VA shuttles, water taxis, trains, private vehicle volunteer drivers, ferries, and taxis—into a single online resource for veterans, service members, and their families. It includes information about a wide range of transportation resources to ensure that the mobility needs of all types of veterans are met, including those who can drive themselves or ride public transportation, and those who need a higher level of service such as a taxicab ride or assistance from a volunteer driver.

Contributor Doug Gellert manages veterans marketing and outreach programs at Hopelink. For more information about VetsGO, visit www.vets-go.com. Doug can be reached at dgellert@hope-link.org or 425-943-6729.