Originating as a program aimed at providing temporary transportation for 10 veterans in the Boston area, the Veterans Affairs (VA) Ridesharing Program has facilitated more than 700,000 rides, offering reliable, same-day transportation to veterans across 90% of the United States.   

In 2017, Charles Franklin, presently an Innovation Project Manager at the New England Center for Innovation Excellence, worked as a community employment coordinator at the VA. The rising housing costs in Boston forced veterans to seek affordable housing outside the city, resulting in limited public transportation options and barriers in finding and retaining employment.

To address this growing issue, Franklin piloted a program in 2018 that provided 10 veterans in the VA homeless program with a vehicle for the first four weeks of their new jobs. The pilot proved successful with all 10 veterans maintaining employment and subsequently securing more fulfilling and higher-paying positions. 

Following the pilot's success, the program received additional funding to expand into what is now known as the VA Rideshare Program. This program created a user-friendly platform enabling veterans to request and schedule rides. Key features of the platform include:

  • Free: veterans do not need to pay to use the service as the VA covers all expenses and handles payment.
  • Flexible: rides can be scheduled through the app or the customer service support center and can be requested up to 30 days in advance or on-demand.
  • Friendly: customer service is available 24/7 to address safety concerns and help with rescheduling rides.

In 2021, the program obtained approval for national expansion and has been rapidly broadening the transportation services offered to veterans. The rideshare program now provides transportation for veterans in need of same-day mental health appointments, medical appointments, assistance for reaching safe destinations when stranded, and more recently, veterans requiring food service delivery.

Future service plans under consideration include expanded medical transportations services and providing furniture kits for veterans not near a furniture bank.

"We can provide same-day access to food for 94% of the continental United States. Pilot sites were launched in February 2023 for two months, serving more than 1,500 unique veterans and distributing 5,000 boxes of food (each box equating to a week's worth of food)."

- Charles Franklin, Innovation Project Manager

The platform is driven by artificial intelligence (AI), which conducts analyses for each ride based on the ZIP code, day of the week, hour, and cost. By leveraging historical data, the AI calculates the most efficient rideshare company to fulfill the request, considering time and location, and then schedules the ride accordingly.

The VA is actively working on additional features that utilize AI technology to adapt to future changes in the market, including the implementation of new vehicle emission regulations set by states and localities. The platform's algorithms will have the capability to select electric vehicles or vehicles meeting the required emission standards based on the location, tailoring requests to help meet program target goals.

VA Rideshare Program Statistics

A virtual dashboard visually depicting statistics from the rideshare program.

The VA Rideshare Program can be found in all 50 states plus 3 U.S. territories. More than 700,000 rides have been provided through the platform.

As of April 2023: 

  • 1,270 participating veterans successfully maintained employment for at least one year
  • 700,000+ rides provided through the platform
  • 92 transportation company APIs built into the platform (including taxi services for areas not served by Lyft or Uber)
  • 50 states and 3 U.S. territories serviced
  • 74% of rides completed with Lyft 
  • 1,200–1,400 support center calls processed per day
  • $31.55 ($2.39 per mile) average cost per ride (including software development fees)
  • 93% of every dollar spent supports veterans in accessing transportation services.

Considering Implementing a Rideshare Program at Your Site?

The General Services Administration (GSA) has a blanket purchase agreement (BPA) for rideshare services with Lyft and Uber, which could be a viable solution for federal sites. While the VA did not utilize this BPA, rideshare services may be able to replace employee shuttle buses, reduce rental vehicle requests, or decrease fleet vehicle numbers. When evaluating vehicle utilization, consider whether rideshare could be an alternative to maintaining a fleet vehicle.