Originally funded as a two-year pilot program, the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center, United Way of the Plains, and the City of Wichita formally announced today that the Veterans Ride Free program has been renewed for two years. The program allows all veterans with appropriate identification to ride any route in the Wichita Transit system free of charge.
Since the program was originally launched on July 28, 2020, veterans have taken 77,988 free rides on Wichita Transit routes. At the full fare rate, the free rides have put $136,479 back into the pockets of veterans during challenging economic times.
In some cases, the ability to ride the bus for free has been life-changing, enabling veterans to secure jobs, eliminate food insecurity, or attend medical appointments, among other benefits experienced.
As social workers and case managers – both with Dole VA and community agencies and organizations – spend less time driving veterans to food banks, grocery stores, medical appointments, or to find housing, they are devoting more time to working on issues such as mental health, substance abuse, and meeting housing goals with other veterans and members of the community in need of assistance.
Statement from Candace Ifabiyi, Director and Chief Executive Officer for the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center: “For many Veterans in the Wichita area, the Veterans Ride Free program has been life-changing and its impact on them is immeasurable. I’m very proud to work alongside colleagues at the Dole VA who care so much about our Veterans, and to work with community partners like United Way of the Plains, the City of Wichita, and Sedgwick County to alleviate issues that may hinder progress for some of our Veterans.”
Statement from Pete Najera, President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of the Plains: “We want to thank everyone who contributed to our annual Memorial Day Flags of Freedom fundraiser earlier this year. Their donations made it possible for us to fund the extension of this valuable transportation service and to remind those who have served our country that we have not forgotten their sacrifices. We appreciate our partners, the City of Wichita and the Veterans Administration, who help make it possible to improve the quality of life for our veterans.”
Statement from Becky Tuttle, Vice Mayor, City of Wichita: “The Veterans Ride Free program has helped so many of our honored veterans, not only to assist with transportation but also to show them that the City of Wichita will continue to support them, long after their service has concluded. I want to thank Dole VA, Wichita Transit Director Michael Tann and his wonderful staff, and the United Way organization for helping to make this program such a success and allowing us to continue to work to serve our veterans.”
Link to video of Veteran testimonials: (Will follow up with this as soon as it is available)
Link to video of today’s press conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXjmBijkfUU
Veterans Ride Free statistics
July 28, 2020 – June 30, 2022
- Total Ridership: 77,988
- Full-fare Value: $136,479
- Average Monthly Ridership: 3,249
- Average Monthly Growth: 3.46%
- Peak Month: June 2022 with 4,322 rides