Indian country received news on December 1 by Ray LaHood, U.S. Transportation Secretary of $15 million to help American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments invest and improve public transit and access to employment centers, all a means to promote economic development.
“With unemployment among American Indians at an unacceptably high rate, reliable public transportation offers a vital link to jobs, training centers and other essential services,” LaHood said. “The Obama Administration is committed to working with leaders in Indian country to improve transportation connections while boosting economic conditions and creating jobs in tribal communities.”
The funds distributed through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Tribal Transit Program will provide grants to tribes in 25 states for 67 separate projects. The projects will focus on:
- Maintaining existing transit operations during the economic downturn
- Enhancing services for seniors and people with disabilities
- To plan or launch new bus, van and commuter services in rural communities
“For people who live in rural communities and on tribal lands, access to reliable, affordable public transit is a lifeline,” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. “We’re committed to ensuring that every American Indian or Alaskan Native who needs a ride to earn a paycheck, attend school, see the doctor, or buy groceries has that opportunity.”
Eligible recipients under the Tribal Transit Program are any federally recognized tribe as identified by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Some of the projects to receive funding are:
- The Quechen Indian Tribe along the California-Arizona border will receive $232,000 for new transit service on the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation to improve access to employment, education, health services and recreational opportunities between Fort Yuma and Winterhaven.
- The Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Central Oklahoma will receive $450,000 to increase the on-demand transit services it provides to seniors, tribal elders, persons with disabilities and others with little or no transportation options to meet basic needs such as medical appointments, grocery and clothes shopping, jobs and adult continuing education.
- The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will receive $140,000 to continue providing night service, consisting of five routes six nights a week, serving the Qualla Boundary portion of the Cherokee Indian Reservation in Western North Carolina. The service provides safe transportation for those who work at night, as well as for evening shopping and activities.
According to a press release by the Department of Transportation, the Federal Transit Administration reviewed 116 project applications for the Tribal Transit Program, representing more than $41.6 million in funding requests from tribal transit providers across the country.