This month, a local transit program made the list to receive a chunk of Federal grant funding through the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT).

This month, a local transit program made the list to receive a chunk of Federal grant funding through the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT).

In early April, the Federal Transit Administration announced that three Oklahoma grants were included in the 139 projects in 52 states and U.S. territories receiving grant funding from FTA’s Buses and Bus Facilities Infrastructure Investment Program.

Shawnee's Central Oklahoma Transit System (COTS), a transportation program through Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency (COCAA), was one of 10 rural transit operators to get a cut of nearly $3.6 million in funding to modernize their fleets with more accessible and reliable vehicles.

COTS, which began in 1998, serves the general public with handicapped accessible vehicles to provide rides to medical appointments, shopping, education or work-related activities.

“We receive this funding annually to assist with operating and transportation costs of our COTS vehicles and staff,” COCAA Assistant Director Tracy Meeuwsen said.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) doles out these grant dollars to tribal, nonprofit and local government entities that operate rural transit services in the state. This federal funding will be combined with local matching dollars to enable the transit providers to collectively replace 114 older buses and vans that have met or exceeded their useful lives with new vehicles compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Public transit plays a crucial role in the daily lives of Oklahomans in small cities and rural areas and demand for these services is only going to increase, especially for the elderly and those with disabilities,” ODOT Transit Programs Division Manager Ernie Mbroh said. “ODOT is very grateful to receive these grants and the agency’s hardworking Transit Programs Division staff will continue to seek any available transit funding in the future.

Transit ridership is increasing, not only in urban areas, ODOT said, but also in rural communities where Oklahomans face longer commutes to work and the elderly and disabled seek access to medical care and other services.

Together, these 10 rural transit providers serve Oklahomans in 45 counties covering 2.2 million residents. More than 20 percent of the residents in these counties above the age of 60 live below the poverty line, more than 15 percent are disabled and 11 percent are veterans.

ODOT said Oklahoma has been aggressive and successful in seeking additional federal grants for public transportation in recent years. In 2016, ODOT received a $3.6 million grant to help 10 rural transit providers upgrade their equipment. In 2014, an application by ODOT in partnership with the Oklahoma Transit Association yielded a $4.1 million Ladders of Opportunity grant from FTA to help several rural transit providers replace aging vehicles.

COTS rides

• Riders who need the assistance of another to access the transit system must provide their own assistant; the assistant will ride free of charge

• Children under the age of 12 ride free, but must be accompanied by an adult. Child safety seats will be provided as long as you tell the scheduler when making your appointment

• Rides must be booked 48 hours in advance

• $3 per ride in Shawnee and Seminole city limits

• Rides outside the city limits are based on mileage

• COTS coupon books for 10 one-way rides are available in the COTS office; tickets can be used in Shawnee and Seminole city limits

• All senior citizens and veterans rides are $1 one way (City of Shawnee only, and City of Seminole only) anything out of city limits must call for discounted rate, but mileage will apply. Ticket books for seniors also are available

To schedule a ride with COTS, call (405) 273-3000.

COCAA

According to COCAA's website, at cocaa.org, the program helps low-income individuals and families avoid crisis situations in two ways; meeting emergency needs first, then helping families gain self-sufficiency through supportive case management and partnerships with other social service providers.

There also are COCAA agencies in Cleveland, Lincoln, Logan, Payne and Seminole Counties. COCAA is a member of a nationwide network of 1,100 Community Action Agencies.

The Community Action movement dates back to 1964 as part of the Federal Economic Opportunity Act, the site states. Community Action Agencies are locally managed with a volunteer board of directors that includes low-income people, public officials and representatives from the community sector.

Other COCAA services include direct help for families to meet basic needs for food, clothing, utilities and housing costs; improvements to home insulation to help low-income families save on energy bills; empowering individuals ages 55 and over to share their knowledge through volunteer services; and assisting the under-insured or uninsured with obtaining prescription medication through an Oklahoma Department of Commerce program.

Community Action Agencies are not government agencies and rely on donations from the general public and program-specific, restricted grants from private foundations and state and federal government.

To make a contribution to COCAA, 131 N. Bell in Shawnee, call (405) 275-6060.