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N.M. vets to get better access to transportation

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Veterans throughout central and northern New Mexico can look forward to one-call or one-click access to transportation information that will ensure timely and affordable rides to work, school, medical appointments and other destinations, transit officials said Thursday.

“Today I’m pleased to announce the releasing of almost $650,000 to help thousands of people obtain access to transportation services, specifically veterans, to the transportation services they need,” Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff told a group at the New Mexico Veterans’ Memorial.

The Federal Transit Administration is the U.S. Department of Transportation agency that provides financial and technical assistance to local public transit systems.

“Transportation can sometimes mean whether a veteran can get to the job training they need, the health care they need, the rehabilitation services they need,” Rogoff said. “And these two grants are going to go a long way to making access to those services a great deal easier.”

Rogoff said the New Mexico Department of Transportation will receive $364,000 to upgrade a regional call center in the Santa Fe area, and the Mid-Region Council of Governments will receive $282,500 to launch a new website in Albuquerque.

Both efforts are designed to provide one-call or one-click access to information that makes it easy for veterans, military families and others to arrange and connect to transportation options throughout the state.

Frank Sharpless, transit and rail director for the state Department of Transportation, said afterward that transportation officials have been meeting with veterans organizations to determine the best ways to get that information to the estimated 155,000 veterans living in central and northern New Mexico.

Sharpless said the call center upgrade and new website should be up and running in about a year. He also said traditional advertising will be part of the effort to make veterans aware of the transportation services available to them – whether it’s a ride down the block or halfway across the state.

Vietnam veteran George Pérez, who volunteers at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center, said he sees the need every day for reliable transportation for veterans.

“I’m looking forward to spending some of that money,” Pérez quipped.

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