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Types of Voucher Programs

There are three major types of voucher systems:
  • Mileage-based voucher system
  • Fixed-value voucher model
  • i-vouchers
Resource: For a comparison of the checkbook and i-voucher system, see “Transportation Voucher Programs: Facilitating Mobility in Rural Areas,” updated January 2008, at http://web1.ctaa.org/webmodules/webarticles/anmviewer.asp?a=430&z=5.


What type of voucher system does your community use and how has it worked for you? Share your story here or in the comments section.

Mileage-Based Voucher System

The mileage-based system documents the number of miles a passenger traveled with a particular driver and then reimburses the driver based on that mileage. This model allows an agency to track the number of miles a particular customer travels and gives the agency a choice to limit this benefit based on total mileage over a set time period.

In the checkbook model, the customer uses a book of vouchers that looks much like a regular bank checks except that the “currency” is in miles.  There is also a place where the customer indicates the purpose of the trip (e.g., medical). The customer completes and signs the check and gives it to the transportation provider, who sends it to the reimbursing agency. The agency then reimburses the provider according to a prenegotiated per-mile rate. Program operators may choose not to charge customers for the checkbook or may consider charging a nominal fee for the checkbook to help pay for the costs of the program.  The APRIL Toolkit contains a Sample Completed Check (link to be added).


Example: Wyoming Independent Living Rehabilitation Center’s Checkbook Program

The Wyoming Independent Living Rehabilitation (WILR) Center has administered a successful voucher program using the checkbook model for more than four years. The program serves 13 counties in the eastern half of Wyoming with an overall population of almost 325,000 people. Currently, 315 people are enrolled in the program; another 140 are on a waiting list. Customers meet with a staff coordinator to complete a mileage plan that defines the number of miles each customer will be allowed per quarter and annually based on the customer’s average monthly travel. Customers can receive up to 2,000 miles of transportation per year or 500 per quarter. WILR has negotiated a per-mile rate for volunteer drivers, taxi, human service transportation providers, and transit providers. By knowing the number of miles a participant can use per year and the associated transportation rates, the program is able to estimate annual transportation costs. WILR monitors usage to ensure that customers are not exceeding the mileage limit; adjustments to mileage limits can be made if unusual circumstances arise. The customer is responsible for arranging transportation. WILR does not charge customers for the checkbook. WILR, which provides more than 20,000 trips per year, has one full-time staff person dedicated to voucher reconciliation and payments.

The Traveler’s Cheque program, highlighted in the Work with Riders section (p. 24) of the APRIL toolkit, provides a description of this model, sample checks, as well as information about training riders on the use of checkbooks.  A Sample Check Register is also included (link to be added). 

One variation on the checkbook model is to have the customer give the transportation provider a blank voucher that the driver completes with the following information and sign it:

  • Date
  • Driver ID number
  • Auto insurance policy number
  • Pick-up and arrival times
  • Beginning and ending odometer readings
  • Trip destination

 The driver then applies to the agency for reimbursement based on the number of miles the customer traveled.

 Another variation is for the agency to issue a card that authorizes the customer to access rides via a designated transportation provider. The driver logs the details of each trip and submits a request for reimbursement to the agency.


Example: Afterhours Cab Program in Iowa City, IA

In 2008, Iowa City began implementing a taxi voucher program, using JARC funds, to support service when transit is not available, such as nights or weekends. Applicants accepted to the Afterhours Cab program are issued a rider card which, along with a valid Iowa ID, they will need to show to the cab driver before the ride can occur. The taxi company will also be given a regularly updated list of approved riders.The cost of the ride is per mile and is based on the amount that was agreed upon prior to the contract being awarded to the taxi company. The rider/applicant is responsible for half of the fare; Iowa City Transit will be billed for the remainder. The cab company will submit a bill – preferably on a weekly basis – to Iowa City Transit for reimbursement. The bill will include the actual ticket, mileage and hours of the ride, time, and date, etc. The program will be available for as long as funding is available.

 Benefits of the Checkbook Model

  • The customer manages his/her own transportation options by choosing the provider, the pick-up time (usually within a 15-minute window), and in some cases, the trip purpose.
  • The customer does not have to call the sponsoring agency to arrange for the transportation and the sponsoring agency does not have to handle scheduling the transportation.
  • The agency knows in advance what travel habits to expect and the estimated annual transportation cost for each customer.

Implications of the Checkbook Model

This model can be labor intensive because of the need to reconcile and store the accumulated checks.

Resource: For an excellent guide to establishing a checkbook voucher program using primarily volunteer drivers as the transportation providers, look at “The Support Volunteer Rural Transportation Voucher Program,” by the University of Montana Rural Institute. http://rtc.ruralinstitute.umt.edu/Trn/TrnManual.htm.

Fixed-Value Voucher Model

The fixed-value voucher model provides similar flexibility for the customer as the checkbook model, providing a booklet of vouchers to the customer; however, in this model, each voucher has a monetary face value. The customer “pays” the transportation provider directly with one or more vouchers, depending on the value of the trip. The transportation provider, in turn, is reimbursed for the cost of the ride once the vouchers are submitted to the program operator.

In many locations the customer is charged a discounted amount for the booklet of vouchers. For example, County Commuter in Washington County, Maryland has a program serving older adults and people with disabilities in which the customer pays $3.75 for a $10.00 booklet of vouchers. The number of booklets one can purchase per month depends on how close the customer lives to Hagerstown, the major urban area in the county. Each voucher is numbered and the customer is required to write in his/her name and identification number on each voucher, as well as other information such as trip purpose and destination.


Example: Taxi Voucher Program, Olathe, Kansas

The City of Olathe, Kansas, in operation since 1977, sells booklets of ten $2.50 vouchers for a cost of $25 per booklet. Customers then pay one $2.50 voucher per taxi trip, a 79 percent savings over the $12 per trip rate negotiated by the city. Voucher-funded trips are restricted to within the city boundaries. Eligible older adults and adults with disabilities have a limit on the number of booklets they can purchase each month, whereas eligible low-wage workers do not.  Rides are available within the city limits of Olathe and rides of shorter duration offset the actual costs of longer rides.  The program operates Monday-Saturday from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  There is no demand for Sunday service.

Program participants can either purchase their vouchers on-site or mail in a check along with an order form, requesting that the vouchers be mailed to them.  Turn around is the same day. 

Originally created to serve older adults and individuals with disabilities, the program now serves low-income workers, using a combination of JARC and city funding. Nearly 1,000 people a year take advantage of the program. The city works with the housing office and local human service agencies to market the program, and attributes much of the program’s success to continual community support, which has helped to secure ongoing funding. As part of an effort to control costs, the city is exploring limiting the number of personal trips a customer may take after finding that several riders were using vouchers for trips to the grocery store nearly every day.

Implications of the Fixed-Value Voucher Model: As with the checkbook model, there is also the time-consuming process of voucher reconciliation each month. However, with a limited amount of transportation vendors, it may be less of a problem. Vouchers used in this model have to be tracked closely to ensure the program stays within budget. Some programs are making adjustments on the type of trips allowed to control costs.

i-Voucher Model

The i-voucher model was developed through a pilot project of the Great Plains Rural Initiative on Transportation (GRIT) and the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities (NDCPD) at Minot State University. Although the pilot project is no longer operational, the NDCPD is willing to share the code for the software (Internet Business Support Software [iBUSS]) it used to track the use of i-vouchers (www.ndcpd.org/grit). The model was developed for a larger statewide program with multiple sources of funding. However, it may be used by smaller programs. The report on the pilot project can be accessed at http://ndcpd.misu.nodak.edu/grit/Ibuss_Report.htm.

With the i-voucher system, customers first applies for eligibility for funded trips from the sponsoring agency (e.g., Medicaid agency, Department of Vocational Rehabilitation). For example, a customer needing rides to a job or job-related site would work with the program manager to approve a set number of rides. The customer would then either be mailed a voucher for  the exact, pre-approved value of the trip or the agency would submit a bus ledger documenting multiple trips to the transportation provider. Each voucher contains information about destination, mileage, value, and documentation (e.g., driver’s signature, rider data). The software program could be adjusted so that vouchers were issued directly to the customer as well. However, this would not be possible in remote rural communities that do not have Internet access.

Once the customer receives a voucher, he or she contacts the driver or transit agency to schedule a ride and then uses the voucher to pay for the trip. The transportation providers then submit monthly invoices to the program staff, who pay the invoices and keep related records. The IBUSS system can coordinate communication and information exchange at three levels: (1) receive data from funding agency on ride program description, rider criterion, and which agencies (if any) and voucher sites may coordinate rides or implement the ride program; (2) program manager designations of eligible individual consumers; and (3) the voucher site from which vouchers were printed and mailed, invoices were managed, and records were kept.

Implications of the i-Voucher Model: To efficiently use the i-voucher model, program staff should be able access to the Internet and related training. The program also requires data input for customers with frequent trips, such as travel to employment, which can be time consuming. The program could be modified to correct this issue. Mailing of vouchers could take time as well; as an alternative distribution method, vouchers could be scanned and then e-mailed to the customer. However, this may present a major barrier because many low-income consumers do not have access to a computer or email/internet. Although iBUSS was designed as an online computerized system, it still generates paper vouchers that ultimately have to be reconciled with the service provided. The iBUSS system can be programmed to automatically generate Medicaid forms.