CARTA Offers Free Bus Rides For Veterans

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — Veterans can ride any CARTA bus for free, starting today.

They will need a V.A. issued ID to take advantage of that program.

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The bus driver said, “They have a card that they show.”

When the idea of allowing free bus rides for veterans was first being considered, CARTA was going to ask former military people to bring their DD-214’s to its offices for verification. But after further discussions, they decided to just let the VA take care of that step.

Here’s how the free rides on the bus will work:

“As long as you have a picture ID from the Veteran’s Administration, you just have to show that to the operator, and then the operator will enter you into the fare box and then you’ll be good to go,” said Lisa Maragnano, Executive Director for CARTA.

So, why did CARTA want to offer this benefit for veterans?

“One of the reasons we’re doing this is to say ‘Thank You.’, for their service and thank them for everything they have done so that we can live – you know, the life that we live and make the choices that we make every day,” said Mrs. Maragnano.

CARTA’s Executive Director Lisa Maragnano says they’ll continue the program for a year, and then they’ll assess the financial viability. If it works, they’ll continue to allow veterans to ride their buses for free, permanently.

Mrs. Maragnano said, “Just to make sure that it’s not going to cause us any huge funding issues, I don’t anticipate that it will, and then to work out any other, you know, issues that may come up in that year time maybe we didn’t think about things, like somebody brought up to me this morning, it could take a little bit of time to get an ID, so we need to work with the VA on that and see if they can work with us and see if we can get these folks their ID sooner than later, I’m not sure that, that will happen, but we’re going to try to do that.”

The free rides will be on any fixed route or Care-a-van services. CARTA is currently completing a 2 year-long service re-design study, looking at ways to maximize efficiencies.

And next year, they’ll assess this program.

“I’m sure they’ll be some things that will come up, but that’s why we’re trying it for a year, just to see if we need to make adjustments to the program. The goal is to continue it. We wouldn’t start it without trying to continue it so I’m hoping that, you know, there wouldn’t be any issues that wouldn’t allow us to do that,” said Director Maragnano.

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Ashley is a lifetime Chattanooga area resident, and a 1987 graduate from UTC, with a BA in communications. While there, he was commissioned through the ROTC program, served simultaneously in the 1/181st field artillery Tn. Army National Guard, finished Airborne school, was a member of the Scabbard and Blade military honor society and ROTC Rangers, the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, played snare drum with the UTC Marching band, and played in a southern rock band called Southern Atmosphere, while working a full time job as a trainer at the Sports Barn. He also won the Southeastern United States teenage bodybuilding competition during this time. Ashley has been with News 12 Now for 21 years. Prior to working here he was a videographer, director, producer and editor at Falcon Cable TV in Dalton, Ga. for 6 years where he produced thousands of commercials and dozens of hour long features. He also worked as a freelancer and employee at another network affiliate in Chattanooga. He has operated a part time video production business from home for 25 years. He says his passion is telling stories that feature people who give of themselves to help others, and stories that inspire people to make positive changes in themselves and their communities. Ashley is ecstatically married to Debbie Henderson, and has two step sons, a daughter in law, a sister, and lots of aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, and great nieces and nephews. His parents are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year. Ashley and Debbie are active members of Brainerd Baptist Church. His interests include weight training and cycling with his wife, photography, poetry, playing drums, and checking off items from his extensive honey-do list. If you would like to reach Ashley, email him at ahenderson@wdef.com.