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o Scheduling trips: Most VSOs are unfamiliar with current paratransit dispatching and scheduling software and could benefit from assistance with these tasks. Help train, maintain, and facilitate: This assistance includes training drivers and dispatchers, maintaining vehicles, and facilitating scheduling and transportation information dissemination. Coordinate transportation with medical schedulers and Hospital Service Coordinators: Persons who schedule medical appointments do not necessarily perceive transportation problems when they set up appointments. Especially if transportation resources are limited, work with medical schedulers to ensure that all resources are used cost-effectively. Develop plans that include all transportation modes and providers, including volunteer services: A large current strength of veterans' transportation services are the efforts they receive from volunteer drivers. These volunteers are crucial to maintaining cost- effective transportation services. Work closely with them; they may be able to help you too. Include veterans in the planning process for future transportation services: Veterans and their service organizations have significant transportation needs and can offer substantial inputs into future plans. ASSESSMENT TOOLS FOR TRANSPORTATION PROVIDERS AND PLANNERS Local transportation providers and planners need to be able to assess their status and options with respect to improving the mobility of veterans. The classic planning process is one of assembling stakeholders, establishing mutual goals and objectives, gathering data, assessing needs, designing options, choosing and implementing the most attractive options, and then evaluating the results of those actions that were implemented in terms of the stated goals and objectives. Each of these steps should be conducted in a rigorous and in-depth fashion. This section presents some of the tools needed for gathering information to develop a coordinated transportation services plan focused on improving the mobility of veterans: a Needs Assessment Tool and a Travel Options Inventory. These tools are both intended to (a) identify current strengths and weaknesses in local transportation services for veterans and (b) suggest options for improved services and enhanced mobility. While these tools are directed at local transportation providers and human service agencies, these organizations will certainly need to contact individual veterans to obtain some if not all of the information required. In fact, a local veterans' organization could be responsible for obtaining this information to improve response rates from veterans. To ensure that 65
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transportation services plans are responsive to the needs of local veterans, a separate needs assessment should be conducted among the local veterans themselves. It should be recognized that the tools shown here, in their current form, represent just the beginning of a serious effort to engage a wide range of community stakeholders--all typical transportation stakeholders plus veterans and their representatives--in serious professional efforts to improve the mobility of veterans within a given locality. Much more work will be needed to develop a truly comprehensive transportation planning process for meeting veterans' transportation needs. The work needed for developing a comprehensive transportation planning process involving veterans is described in the following chapter. Needs Assessment Tool The Needs Assessment Tool is a short questionnaire that asks for information about local transportation services for veterans and also asks how the agency completing the survey interacts with veterans' mobility efforts. The short exercise of completing this information lays the groundwork for the next steps, those that involve potential community partners acting to identify collaborative strategies that they might jointly implement to improve services to their veterans. The questionnaire shown in Table 3 was created for community transportation providers, human service transportation program managers, or others who would like to expand their transportation services to the veterans' community. The questions and statements below allow transportation professionals to assess where they stand in terms of involvement with veterans' transportation. Based on the self-assessment results, transportation professionals can become aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their programs and may come up with strategies on how to more effectively market their services to veterans. Target Users: Transportation providers and human service agency program managers Purpose: To begin an assessment of veterans' mobility need in the region Expected Outcome: Estimation of new market segment and key contacts identified Instructions: This assessment is to be completed by agency personnel who are experienced in program management and planning. Information may come from agency records or public records. The questionnaire may also require inquiries directed to other community leaders. Each assessment item includes sources for information. 66
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Table 3: VETERANS' MOBILITY NEEDS ASSESSMENT TOOL What Are the Mobility Needs of Veterans in Your Area? How Can You Be Involved in Veterans' Transportation? 1) _______ (percent) of our registered riders are veterans. [Look up this information from the agency database. If your agency does not track veteran status, please consider adding this item to your client database] Where do they reside geographically? _________________________________ [Names of neighborhoods, cities or counties] 2) _______ (percent) of residents in our service area are veterans. Where do they reside geographically? ________________________________ [Names of neighborhoods, cities or counties] [You may contact your local Veterans Service Organizations or Veterans Service Commissions for the above information. U.S. Census data may also be available.] 3) ________, _________, and ________ (types of destinations) are the places to which veterans frequently request rides and we provide these rides to them. 4) ________, _________, and ________ (types of destinations) are the places to which veterans frequently request rides but we do not currently provide these rides to them. 5) Serving veterans' trip requests are different from other riders' requests because: a) ___________________________________________________ b) ___________________________________________________ c) ___________________________________________________ 6) Serving veterans' trip requests are similar to riders from other groups because: a) ___________________________________________________ b) ___________________________________________________ c) ___________________________________________________ 67
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Table 3 (continued) 7) Name the agencies, advocacy groups, or facilities that work with veterans in your region. a) __________________________________________________________ (Names) b) We receive referrals from_________________________________________ c) We refer veterans to_____________________________________________ d) We would like to establish relationships with _________________________ 8) What additional requirements do you have to meet to earn business with the veterans' community? 9) What kind of help do you need to establish a working relationship with veterans' community? 10) What types of new funding are you likely to get as a result of working with the veterans community? 11) By how much are you likely to increase revenue or save costs by working with veterans' community? 12) By how much are you likely to decrease revenue or increase costs by working with veterans' community? 13) How do you plan to reach out to the veterans' community? 14) What are your agency's goals in terms of serving the mobility needs of veterans? Short-term goals? Long-term goals? The Travel Options Inventory The Travel Options Inventory is presented in Tables 4 and 5. They have been created to enable transportation providers and planners to first record, in a bit more detail, what is currently being done to improve the mobility of veterans. The second step would be to look at the empty cells that represent what is not being done at this time but what could also be considered for further action based on strategies successfully applied in other communities. 68