Voucher models, sometimes called “taxi vouchers,” use tickets or coupons that eligible riders can offer to participating transportation providers in exchange for a ride. Transportation providers may consist of dial-a-ride services, taxi and on-demand services, agency vans, or volunteer drivers. Voucher programs subsidize the cost of transportation for riders and incentivize transportation providers to participate in the local transportation network. Eligibility for vouchers is determined by the sponsoring agency or county. Eligibility criteria may include people who cannot operate a personal vehicle because of disability, people who cannot afford a taxi or ride-hailing service, or people who do not live on a bus route.
Voucher systems may vary from one to another. Some programs may offer free rides, while others may offer reduced cost rides for customers. For example, some programs may allow riders to purchase $25 worth of vouchers at a cost of $10. After the passenger uses the voucher, the transportation provider is reimbursed by the funding sponsor. Some programs may allow the customer to choose the transportation provider while other programs may require the use of a specific provider. Passengers can use the vouchers to travel to medical appointments or the grocery store, and access social services or other programs. Using local transportation services also benefits the local economy by providing business to transit companies.
Examples of Voucher Models
- Living Independence Network Corporation (LINC) in Twin Falls, Idaho uses volunteer drivers who bank hours in order to earn vouchers. This nonprofit transportation program was established in 1997, and rides can be used for multiple purposes, including visiting friends and family or making trips to the grocery store. LINC is funded using Section 5310 program funds.
- Wyoming Independent Living's Transportation Check Program allows mileage or fee reimbursements for transportation providers who give rides to residents with disabilities. The Transportation Check Program is available to residents of several rural counties in eastern Wyoming.
Considerations for Implementation
Voucher programs allow for a degree of flexibility for customers. The ability to choose transit services that meet a rider's unique needs and preferences make this model an appealing option for many customers. In some instances, transportation providers may consist of the customer's friends, family, or other community members, allowing the driver to receive reimbursement for trips the providers may have had to pay out of pocket. The voucher model benefits multiple stakeholders because it makes existing transportation services more affordable and helps to sustain them.
Community partnerships play a key role in voucher programs. Partners are responsible for subsidizing the vouchers and must therefore identify and obtain funding. Rural communities may have to work with partners to establish a group of transportation providers, market the program, and estimate user demand of the program.
The success of voucher programs depends on available transportation modes in a given community. The expansion of taxicab services and other ride-hailing services in communities can greatly improve the effectiveness of voucher models. Taxicabs can be a valuable mode of transit in rural areas by supplementing days and hours of available public transportation options.
Voucher programs may also involve a volunteer component. Volunteer drivers may provide the only form of transportation in some rural communities.
Program Clearinghouse Examples
Resources to Learn More
Update: Where We've Gone and What We've Learned
Chapter 7 of this report provides an overview of rural transportation issues and a discussion of successful strategies for rural transportation.
Organization(s): National Council on Disability
Voucher Programs: Facilitating Mobility in Rural Areas
Focusing on the use of voucher programs for employment, this report covers the pros and cons of using voucher systems and ideas for funding voucher programs.
Author(s): Haarstad, C.
Organization(s): Joblinks, Community Transportation Association of America
Transportation Voucher Replication Handbook
This toolkit provides an overview of how to develop and maintain a voucher program, with a focus on programs for populations with developmental disabilities.
Organization(s): Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council