Next up: Hampton Roads, Virginia.
Three major rivers flow in Southeastern Virginia, splitting the Virginia Peninsula and South Hampton Roads to become the Chesapeake Bay, which ultimately meets the Atlantic Ocean. This region, known as Hampton Roads, faces transportation challenges as the cities of Newport News, Hampton, and Norfolk become more and more urbanized; though waterways, tunnel traffic, and tolls present obstacles for vehicle travel, navigating this area is markedly more difficult for people with disabilities and older adults who cannot drive. Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) has a fleet of more than 300 buses, 9 trains, and three ferries, but paratransit is only available within a ¾ mile radius of a bus route and is largely inflexible for its users.
The team at the United Way South Hampton Roads – Mission United Coordination Center recognizes these gaps with respect to veterans, active duty military members, and their families – transportation is cited as the number one issue by many clients. Mission United received grant funding to supply rides to medical appointments when a natural partnership formed with a local Black and White taxi cab service: a veteran pays $3.00 for their ride, while half of the charge is covered by the taxi company and the remaining with Mission United grant funds. Digging deeper into the third most requested service in this network, we notice some important demographic trends that might lead to informed advocacy for improved transportation.
Time as an Obstacle
- Most clients live about 25 miles away from the VA Medical Center, which lies across the Bay in Newport News; it takes these clients 2-3 hours to attend a medical appointment via public transportation.
- Understanding the demographic breakdown of clients requesting transportation assistance – most of whom are over the age of 60 – may lend to a targeted resource development by Mission United’s network for the aging population in Hampton Roads.
People with Disabilities
- Over half of clients with a service-connected disability have a service-connected disability rating of 50% or higher, indicating a moderate to severe disability. As Hampton Roads improves its existing infrastructure and develops new bus and light rail routes, this community should be considered and included in transportation-related decision making.