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Virginia awarded $239,000 in federal transit administration innovation grants

Virginia Department of Rail and Public TransportationThe Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation has been awarded two federal grants totaling $239,000, a $79,000 Mobility for All grant and a $160,000 Integrated Mobility Innovation grant.

Designed to improve access to public transportation through the use of technology, both programs are part of a limited number of competitive, discretionary funding opportunities across the United States.  The Commonwealth will provide matching funds of $68,000 for the IMI grant utilizing the Innovation and Technology Transportation Fund and $79,000 of matching state funds for the M4A grant.

The M4A grant will be used to develop a new statewide TransportationNavigator website. DRPT is collaborating with VirginiaNavigator, a Chesterfield County-based non-profit that provides free, statewide resource information associated with aging, disabilities, post-military life, and overall well-being.  The IMI grant will fund two pilot projects designed to determine whether a technology-driven solution results in a more efficient way to deliver transit service in rural areas.

“For many in our Commonwealth, transit is a lifeline – creating access to work, education, and resources,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “We thank Secretary Chao for this unique opportunity to help remove barriers to transit use, creating a critical connection for Virginians.”

TransportationNavigator will be Virginia’s most thorough online archive of public transportation information, providing a one-click directory of public, human service, and specialized transportation providers, programs, and services. The online resource will be available to all Virginians as a tool to view at a glance which transportation options are available in their area.

DRPT will use data collected through TransportationNavigator to significantly improve transit service coordination and communication in rural and small urban areas. The plans were developed in concert with the Coordinated Human Service Committee, a working group comprised of state human service agencies convened by DRPT for the coordination of human service transportation planning.  Many of these agencies have extensive experience with VirginiaNavigator that helped inform the collaborative process.

The IMI grant will fund the development of an Information Technology-based multi-passenger transportation service, known as microtransit, to enable passengers to use dynamically-generated routes to make their way to and from common pick-up or drop-off points.

DRPT will be working in collaboration with its local partners at Bay Transit of Gloucester and Mountain Empire Older Citizens (MEOC) of Wise, and the plans will be coordinated through the Office of Innovation and the Virginia Transportation Research Council.

“DRPT is proud to partner with Virginia Navigator, Bay Transit, and MEOC to develop better mobility options for transit customers in Virginia, providing them the most important real-time information needed to make every day travel decisions,” said DRPT Director Jennifer Mitchell. 

“Transit is imperative for an effective transportation system,” said Virginia’s Director of Transportation Innovation and Research Cathy McGhee.  “Using this innovative approach by leveraging technology to provide more efficient on-demand service, we will make transit a more practical option for many who reside in the Commonwealth, particularly in rural areas.”

Utilizing existing Bay Transit and MEOC routes as demonstration pilots, both local transit providers will integrate new microtransit software while continuing to operate with existing drivers, vehicles, and current hours.  The software will include on-demand technologies similar to those used by transportation network companies, designed to provide service that is more flexible and able to meet the needs of rural transit riders.

augusta free press
augusta free press