Jodi Rave: Tribes grab $10M in transportation grants
"This summer marks the first time I’ve caught a bus to work since I’ve lived in Missoula.

I’ve used public transportation for pure convenience in metro areas, but catching a bus these days is catching on far beyond congested urban landscapes.

In fact, more Native citizens are getting on board as bus lines develop on reservations.

“We’re packed on the buses,” said Wenona Andrew, transit dispatch supervisor for the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho. “We don’t have enough seats. We’re looking at getting more buses.”

The tribe operates the Appaloosa Express, a public transit system based in Lapwai, Idaho, on the Nez Perce Reservation. People can ride 8-, 16- and 22-passenger buses, plus one on-demand bus for medical appointments.

It used to be that tribes in non-urban areas had to apply for transit grants through the state. But the U.S. Department of Transportation offers competitive transit grants directly to tribes.

In 2007, the Federal Transit Administration awarded $10 million to 65 tribes, from California to Iowa to Maine.

Four tribes received nearly $1 million in startup money, including the Santee and Ponca tribes in Nebraska, the United Keetoowah in Oklahoma and the Asa’Carsarmiut Tribal Council in Alaska.

Tribes in Washington and Oklahoma have taken the greatest advantage of tribal transit grants, securing $2.2 and $1.5 million, respectively.

The 2008 Federal Transit Administration tribal grant applications are due Aug. 19."

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Jodi Rave: Tribal bus programs making great strides (The Missoulian 7/14)