APRIL’S Transportation Voucher project:

Operation and Results


As part of our transportation initiative APRIL has received a major grant to demonstrate the effectiveness of a voucher model to provide transportation for people with disabilities living in rural areas.  The grant is funded by RSA (U. S. Department of Education) for $1,494,218 over a five-year period (2001-2006).

Overview and Project Objectives


This demonstration of the TRAVELER’S CHEQUE (TC) program was designed to explore the strategy of using vouchers for transportation provision to people with disabilities living in rural areas and to provide effective strategies for addressing this important problem.  The demonstration focused on how small towns and rural communities can successfully organize and operate a flexible supported transportation program for people with disabilities.

The goal of our project was to demonstrate the effectiveness of a voucher model to provide employment related transportation for people with disabilities who live in rural areas.  Objectives included the following:

Select ten sites to provide diversity in geographical location, disability population served, availability of transportation resources and population density.

Implement the voucher model at each of the ten sites and evaluate the effectiveness of the model.

Develop operational strategies and resource materials and provide ongoing technical assistance to the sites.

Convene a national summit on accessible rural transportation and develop a replication kit that communities can use to operate a traveler’s cheque program.

Methods


We chose to work with CILs and Section 121 American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation programs across the US because their missions include creating community options for people with disabilities and their structure, goals, and knowledge base are similar.  Annually, the 336 CILs and their 253 satellite offices serve 1,896 counties (1,224 of which are rural) and approximately 212,000 people.  In addition, fifty Section 121 programs operate in 18 states.

A total of ten sites in ten states, Massachusetts, Utah, Kansas, New Mexico, Alaska, Montana, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Georgia, and Minnesota participated in the project.  Four sites, three CILs and a Section 121 project collaborated in the development of the grant proposal and were preselected to participate in the project.  We used a “mini-grants” program to recruit the additional six demonstration sites.

A total of 50 programs submitted applications to the competition and we selected the final ten sites to represent ten very diverse communities so that the results and replication materials developed could be widely applied. Diversity in location, population density, geography, minority populations, disability groups served, transportation availability and transportation experience were emphasized.  Table 1 lists the ten sites and highlights community characteristics.

Table 1
Ten Demonstration Sites and Their Characteristics

 SITE                                           CHARACTERISTICS

ILC
Homer, AK

Low population density; experience with a transportation voucher coupon program.

BAIN, Inc.
Bainbridge, Georgia

No transportation experience; 10% of county population has a visual impairment; large black minority population.

DSNWK
Hays, Kansas 

Transportation provider was the lead organization in partnership with a CIL; transportation experience; large rural service area.

Southern Illinois CIL
Carbondale, Illinois

Large rural service area; high unemployment; large black minority population limited transportation options.

South East CIL
Fall River, Mass. 

High population density, but many remote rural areas; partnership of three CIL’s; taxi service available

SW CIL
Marshall, Minnesota

Very large, very rural area; upper Midwest; rural transportation system available.

Salish and Kootenai Tribes
Pablo, Montana  

Section 121 VR program; high unemployment (49%); limited transportation options and experience.

Zuni Entrepreneurial Enterprises
Zuni, New Mexico  

Section 121 VR program; high unemployment (67%); transportation experience with tribal transportation system.

CIL of Central Pennsylvania
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania 

Rural area; several counties; transportation experience. Taxi services available.

Active Re-Entry
Price, Utah

Very rural area with population density of 5 people per square mile; no transportation experience and very limited transportation.


Procedures
Each selected site received a standard contract listing the responsibilities of the site and the Project Staff.  Each TC site’s designated lead staff member or “Community Transportation Coordinator” (CTC) attended a two-day program implementation training in May, 2002. 

Service Model and Innovative Elements


At each site, the five key players are shown in the figure.  Each has significant roles and responsibilities as follows:

Sponsoring organization:  Establishes eligibility and other policies; ensures that appropriate liability insurance is available.

Community Transportation Coordinator (site program manager):  Establishes a Transportation Interest Network, which includes local providers, service organizations, consumers, and other community leaders to provide coordination and advocacy; Locates and works with consumers to establish an Individual Transportation/Employment Plan, makes mileage allocations to each consumer and trains consumers to use the vouchers (traveler’s cheques) effectively.

Bookkeeper:  Records all trips and associated data and makes payments to providers; Invoices APRIL for reimbursements and transmits data forms for record keeping.

Providers:  May be individual volunteers (paid at 34.5 cents per mile) or any public or private provider willing to accept the vouchers at the rate negotiated with the Community Transportation Coordinator.

Consumers:  Work with the CTC to complete all forms and develop an Individual Transportation/Employment Plan; carefully select providers and consider safety and insurance coverage when using individual volunteers; maintain an accurate mileage balance as vouchers are used.


Local Implementation.  The trained Community Transportation Coordinators (CTC’s) initiated the local programs.  First, they determined how to allocate TC resources (i.e., number of participants to be served, amounts per person, etc.).  We encouraged the CTCs  to negotiate with local public and private providers to accept the vouchers at a negotiated rate and then directed them to recruit participants.  Individual participants were enrolled and completed an extensive enrollment form.  The rider and the CTC then developed an Individual Transportation Plan designed to help each participant formulate a plan to effectively use the vouchers with either volunteer drivers, public, private, or other available providers in the community.  Participants calculated their needs in terms of number of rides and number of miles per ride. They then received an initial allocation in miles and an orientation in how to use TRAVELER’S CHEQUES. 

As the designated “bookkeeper” received each voucher they entered it into an EXCEL workbook (check number, date, the provider, the mileage, the number of one way trips, the trip purpose and the total mileage).  The spreadsheet automatically calculates current balances and summary numbers for each consumer and automatically posts them onto the summary sheet.  The site then issues a check to the transportation provider on a set schedule (normally once each week or on a biweekly or monthly basis).

Results


To date, a total of 588 adults with varied kinds of disabling impairments have participated in the TC program.  Fifty-one percent of riders are male and the average age of riders was 41 years at enrollment.  Sixty-four percent of riders are Caucasian, 23% American Indian, Alaskan Native, or Native Hawaiian, and 10% are African American.  Thirty-eight percent live in a single person household.  Sixty-nine percent of participants report an annual household income below $10,000 and another 24%  annual household incomes between $10,000 and $20,000.  Forty-nine percent of the households did not own a vehicle.  Table 2 list the impairments reported by participants.        

Table 2
Impairments Reported by Voucher System Participants

IMPAIRMENT       % REPORTING

Mental or Emotional

18%

 Mobility or Physical

13%

 Visual

9 %

 Cognitive

 7 %

 Hearing

 1 %

 Multiple Responses

 34%

 Other 

 18%

Table 3 presents the total miles of transportation provided, the number of trips received, the average miles per trip and the average cost per trip over the three years of the project.  Table 4 presents the total number of riders, total number of rides provided, the total number of miles of transportation, the average cost per trip, and the average cost per mile across the ten sites.  Wide variations were seen among the various communities in terms of cost per trip ($1.15 to $16.80), cost per mile ($0.29 to $1.18), and number of consumers served (26 to 104).  Most of the variation is due to geography (longer trips required at some sites) and the use of higher cost taxi providers primarily at two sites (PA and MA). The number of consumers served was related to the priorities established by the sites.  Some sites elected to provide a large number of consumers with partial support of their transportation needs, while other sites provided full support to a smaller number of consumers.  

Table 3

Productivity of Program Over Four Years

           
 

YEAR 1

YEAR 2

YEAR 3

YEAR 4

TOTAL

Total consumers

 173

 378

482

588

588

 Miles provided

 53,520

304,467

 346,832

 313,572

1,018,391

Trips provided

 4,100

 29,553

 32,524

 26,410

 92,578

Payments to providers

$19,710

$127,233

$131,215

$123,478

$401,636

Average cost per trip

$4.81

$4.31

$4.03

$4.68

$4.34

Average cost per mile

$0.37

$0.42

$0.38

$0.39

$0.39


Table 4
Riders, Trips, Miles, and Cost across the Ten Sites Over Four Years

 SITE

RIDERS

TRIPS

MILES

COST PER TRIP, $

COST PER MILE, $

Alaska

 40

7,141

97,355

4.70

0.345

Georgia

 56

10,572

91,099

3.65

0.424

Illinois

 36

5,014

95,942

6.44

0.336

Kansas

 104

30,946

94,919

1.15

0.376

Massachusetts

44

2,655

37,805

16.80

1.180

Minnesota

89

11,775

160,085

3.97

0.292

Montana

60

4,652

106,631

7.82

0.345

New Mexico

93

10,287

123,196

4.13

0.345

Pennsylvania

40

5,305

69,335

9.33

0.714

Utah

26

4,240

142,024

9.86

0.294

Total

588

92,587

1,018,391

4.34

0.394


Table 5 presents the distribution of provider types across the ten sites over the three years of operation.  Taxi providers are used at four sites (GA, IL, MA and PA) although both GA and IL limit their use.  In five communities either rural transit (KS, MN and NM) or very limited Section 5310 federal program funds (MT and IL) cooperate with the Traveler’s Cheque Program.  In two states (AK and UT) only volunteer providers are used or permitted by the site.  Volunteer drivers are permitted and used at all the sites and are recruited and chosen by the consumers.  To reduce insurance liability issues the sites do not actively recruit, certify or recommend volunteer drivers who are reimbursed at the allowable federal rate.  The number of rides and the number of miles of transportation by provider type varied significantly by site.

Table 5
Distribution in Choice of Transportation Providers across Sites 

TYPE OF PROVIDER

PERCENT OF RIDES

PERCENT OF MILES

Public Transit

 44%

 21%

Volunteers

 43%

71%

Taxis

13%

7%


Although volunteer drivers provided only 43% of the trips, they accounted for 71% of the total miles used by consumers.  Transit systems provided 44% of the rides, but only accounted for 21% of the miles logged by consumers.  Transit providers tended to provide many short rides in the larger “cities,” for example Hays, KS and Marshall, MN.  Taxi providers also tended to be used for shorter trips within town and accounted for 13% of the trips, but only 7% of the miles.

Consumers could choose to use any providers available to them.  Their choices averaged over all ten sites were as follows: 42.2% of consumers used only volunteers, 31.5% used only available public transit services, 11.9% used only taxis, 9.5% used volunteers and public transit only, and 4.6% used volunteers and taxis.

Table 6 presents the distribution of rides by type across the ten sites.  Most of the rides provided were for transportation to and from work (84%). The remaining 16% were provided for MEDICAL, SHOPPING, SOCIAL/RELIGIOUS and SCHOOL purposes when these trips were documented as necessary to maintain, seek or prepare for employment.  Trips for SOCIAL/RELIGIOUS purposes were disallowed by the funding source during the second year of operation and were immediately discontinued.

Table 6
Number of Rides for each Trip Purpose across the Ten Sites Over Three Years

SITE

WORK

MEDICAL

SOCIAL

SCHOOL

SHOPPING

TOTAL

Alaska

3,861

 787

223

870

1,395

7,141

Georgia

9,748

202

187

296

131

10,572

Illinois

2,639

404

300

1,395

339

5,014

Kansas

30,939

0

0

0

0

30,946

Massachusetts

1,714

133

240

435

127

2,655

Minnesota

9,580

394

445

1,040

318

11,775

Montana

3,222

319

121

904

282

4,652

New Mexico

9,443

81

30

204

0

10,287

Pennsylvania

4,739

274

130

97

74

5,305

Utah

1,492

874

0

1,864

10

4,240

Total

77,377

3,468

1,676

7,105

2,676

92,587


The trip purpose percentages varied significantly by site.  For example, in Kansas only trips to and from work were permitted and 100% of the trips were for work.  In Utah, where a Center for Independent Living is partnering with the local Vocational Rehabilitation office only 35% of the trips were to and from work, while 44% of the trips were for transportation to and from school and 21% were for medical purposes.

Finally, Table 7 presents employment outcomes associated with the project.  At the time of enrollment 31% of riders were employed part-time and 14% were employed full-time while 13% were in a paid internship, in school, or in a training program. During the first four years of this project 171 people obtained employment (93 full time and 78 part time jobs).  The number of new jobs obtained during the third and fourth years was higher than during the first two years especially at sites where strong working relationships with VR have been developed.  A similar number of consumers who were employed when they enrolled in the program or who obtained jobs in previous years reported that the program has either helped them maintain their current job or improve their employment (found a better job, were able to increase the number of hours worked or obtained a more rewarding job with their original employer). 

Table 7
Employment Obtained Over Four Years

EMPLOYMENT    

YEAR 1

YEAR 2

YEAR 3

YEAR 4

TOTAL

Total Consumers

173

378

482

588

588

Part-Time Jobs

11

8

33

26

78

Full-Time Jobs

20

17

28

28

93

Total Jobs

31

25

61

54

171

Lessons Learned


The Traveler’s Cheque voucher model pilot study clearly showed that, given the resources, people with disabilities can effectively meet their own employment and IL goals.  The TRAVELER’S CHEQUE program appears to be highly effective in helping people with disabilities in a wide variety of rural U.S. areas to develop and secure transportation.

Resources Required for Operation.  The role of the Community Transportation Coordinator was critical in effectively implementing and administering the TC program.  The coordinator needs to have the leadership skills and the time available to consistently develop and mentor the transportation interest network within the community and the CTC must monitor and manage the budget and the success and failure of the individual riders.  The duties of the CTC may be handled by a team, but the team must effectively communicate with each other and the consumers.

Community Transportation Resources and Program Utility.
  The program functioned effectively in two significant ways depending on the status of transportation options available in the communities:

In rural areas where there is little or no public transportation, this innovative strategy is a method for directly increasing opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in community life.

Where some public transportation is available, it offers a supplementary strategy that can make transportation affordable or provide transportation during time periods when public transit is not available.


Program Operational Stability.   Consistent and stable program operation is necessary to maintain a transportation program that is reliable and effective for consumers.  In a few cases it was necessary to temporarily interrupt or significantly reduce the number of vouchers available for transportation to remain on budget for the fiscal year at a few of the sites.  Program interruptions caused significant hardships for consumers who were relying on the program.  The most significant factor which led to spending levels that exceeded expectations was the use of taxi providers with the very limited budgets available for a site.  With budgets ranging from twelve to fourteen thousand dollars per site and with taxi providers costing approximately $1.70 per mile sites could only support six or seven consumers effectively and consistently if taxis were used.  With a small number of consumers on the program any changes in the use of vouchers by two or three consumers significantly altered the rates of spending.  If spending per consumer dropped sites expanded the number of consumers and then when circumstances of a few consumers changed, large oscillations in the rates of spending occurred.

Using primarily volunteer drivers at 34.5 cents per mile permitted many more consumers to be enrolled and changes in the need for transportation by a few riders did not drastically alter the rates of spending.  Programs with at least 20 or 30 consumers tended to operate with much more consistent rates of spending.  As long as budget levels were large enough to accommodate 20 or 30 consumers the use of higher cost providers would pose no significant operational problems.  The use of taxi providers raised the cost per mile and cost per ride, but consumers had much more flexibility in the communities where taxi providers were available to consumers.

Advantages.  The TC voucher model is extremely flexible and adoptable by any local public or private agency, or a consortium of agencies as a stand-alone program or supplement to existing transportation systems.  The TC model offers many advantages over traditional, agency-driven systems.  Unlike scheduled services, rides need not be restricted to hours and days of operation; more hours of service can be available to riders.  Second, service agencies (i.e. Area Agencies on Aging, CILs) may have lower direct overhead and administrative costs that can be shifted to actual trips.  Third, vouchers can increase public/private cooperation and business for local bus services or taxis.  Fourth, the TC voucher model can start with minimal investment or risk and grow incrementally as demand and resources permit. Finally, because the vouchers themselves document trips, their use can be monitored with a high degree of detail and accuracy.

Disadvantages.  Of course, there may also be disadvantages to voucher systems. Limited numbers of subsidized trips may be available to riders and a community may have few lift-equipped vehicles.  Without adequate monitoring, vouchers could potentially be misused.  Careful planning and management may overcome these obstacles and offer many rural communities and their citizens with disabilities a promising alternative for increasing participation in work and community life.

The TRAVELER’S CHEQUE program is a viable new transportation strategy for supporting people with disabilities that builds on the independent living paradigm and philosophy of consumer control.  Participants improved the quality of their lives and their community participation by creatively combining and using these and other resources.  Participants described their sense of relief and security, knowing that they could get a ride, if they needed it and they expressed their renewed self-respect because they were now able to pay for rides provided by others.

 

APRIL Travelers Cheque Final Data Analysis

This is the final numerical results of the Travelers Cheque program. The program was in operation from 2002 – 2006 in the following ten states: Alaska, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Utah.