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In This Issue
Southeastern MA discusses medical transportation
New TMA launches shuttle
Holliston & Sudbury COAs centralize reservations through MWRTA
Pilot offers low-income seniors free rides
Commuters & seniors enjoy expanded early hours
Governor Patrick thanks SCCCT
Funding updates
RCC updates
More RCCs in development
MBTA discusses accessibility & proposed changes to The RIDE
Coming up in December
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Happy Thanksgiving! This season, we would like to thank all the mobility managers who are helping people arrange their trips and participate in community life around Massachusetts.

This November 2014 issue of MassMobility contains news about community transportation, human service transportation coordination, and mobility management in Massachusetts. This newsletter is compiled by the Human Service Transportation (HST) Office of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), as part of our MassMobility initiative.


Read on to learn about available funding opportunities, new services and service expansions, updates on regional efforts to increase mobility, and more community transportation and coordination news.

Southeastern Massachusetts brainstorms solutions to medical transportation challenges

The South East Regional Coordinating Council (SERCC) convened a forum on medical transportation on November 7. Recognizing lack of transportation as a barrier for seniors, people with disabilities, homeless families, veterans, and others to access medical appointments, RCC members invited medical facilities, transportation providers, and Councils on Aging to discuss the challenges and brainstorm creative solutions. Approximately 30 stakeholders attended. GATRA and the local United Way cosponsored the forum with SERCC.


After an overview of the RCC and a presentation on Ride Match - GATRA's online trip planner - attendees worked in small groups and discussed three scenarios: how to communicate information about transportation options to a homeless family living in a motel, how to help a senior with diabetes deal with the wait times that can result from scheduling medical appointments and transportation services, and how agencies can coordinate vehicle routes more efficiently. The groups discussed short-term solutions such as making information about transportation services available in libraries where people who do not have home computers use the Internet, as well as longer-term solutions such as establishing universal vehicle standards so two different human service agencies can more easily allow their consumers to ride together.


SERCC members are currently compiling the findings and determining next steps. In 2015, they also plan to convene a forum on transportation needs in the employment and education sectors.

New TMA launches first shuttle

The Middlesex 3 Coalition is a group of towns working on improving the Route 3 corridor. Members of the coalition include Bedford, Billerica, Burlington, Chelmsford, Lexington, Lowell, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, and Westford. In September 2014, they established the new M3 Transportation Management Association (TMA) and launched an expanded employee shuttle, which picks up reverse commuters in Boston and brings them out to businesses along Route 3. The shuttle was originally launched in 2013 by E Ink, an area employer, but under the new TMA, other companies are now also participating. In addition to the shuttle, the M3 TMA provides traditional TMA services such as the guaranteed ride home and pre-tax transit passes to participating companies.


Right now the shuttle operates only at peak commuting hours, making three trips in the morning and three in the evening. The shuttle picks up riders from JFK Station in Dorchester, North Station in Boston, and Alewife Station in Cambridge, and drops them off at Billerica's Technology Park. In addition to morning and evening commuter trips, M3 TMA has learned from employees that they would like to be able to leave the office at lunchtime to take advantage of shops and restaurants in the area, so they are looking into using the vehicles in the middle of the day for this kind of trip.


The Middlesex3 Coalition received a Community Innovation Challenge Grant to help fund their work with the TMA. The shuttle has also received funding from the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, which will match up to $20,000 per company that joins the TMA. Middlesex 3 is looking into ways to expand the shuttle to residents of the member communities as well as employees.

Holliston & Sudbury Move to Central Reservations through MWRTA 

The MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA) is piloting a centralized reservation system in partnership with the Holliston and Sudbury Councils on Aging (COAs). Both COAs have robust transportation programs that require program staff to spend a significant amount of time taking reservations and scheduling rides.


In the new system, MWRTA takes the reservations and produces a paper schedule for the COA to review. COAs keep their own vans and drivers, which maintains the personal relationships that many drivers develop with town residents. Instead of paying cash on the bus, seniors pay into an account maintained by MWRTA. Each time a senior takes a ride, MWRTA deducts the fare from their account. When a senior calls to schedule a ride, the reservationist lets them know how much is left in their account.


Holliston switched to the new system in July. Holliston seniors now call the MWRTA reservation line instead of the COA to schedule a ride. This change has freed up staff time at the senior center to do other things, as staff no longer spend time arranging the van schedule and pickups.


Sudbury is currently preparing to switch over to the central reservation system in early 2015. To help ease the transition, the senior center recently asked seniors to call to schedule their rides two days in advance, instead of one day in advance. This change will accommodate the MWRTA call center, which puts together each day's trip manifest the day before and sends it to the COA for approval. Sudbury is planning to hold public outreach sessions with MWRTA staff at the senior center to help people set up an account and become familiar with the changes.


Centralizing reservations will make it easier to group passengers traveling along similar routes. The hope is that by using the available vehicles more efficiently, more people can be served without increasing the number of vans on the road. In addition, as the program moves out of the pilot phase, MWRTA's dial-a-ride service will pick up any extra trips that the COAs cannot fit on the schedule, effectively increasing the service available to riders.

Pilot offers low-income seniors free rides in Malden and Medford

In June, MassDOT provided a grant to Mystic Valley Elder Services (MVES) and Door 2 Door Transportation by SCM for a pilot program to offer a few free trips to RIDE-eligible low-income individuals. Through this pilot, home care consumers living in Malden who are eligible for THE RIDE can sign up and receive four free, non-medical trips per month. The goal was to help low-income seniors travel more affordably within their communities. In September, MassDOT expanded the pilot to include Medford residents as well.


Individuals with an income below $26,000 (or below $37,000 for a family) are eligible. To date, MVES has enrolled over 90 seniors. While many participants are saving their trips for a "rainy day," over 30 have taken advantage of the free rides for activities such as shopping. One nursing home resident is looking forward to using the trips to meet her husband for dinner.


Outreach materials are available in Chinese and Haitian Creole, as well as English. MassDOT is currently conducting a survey of participants and will analyze the data to determine next steps.

Expanded early hours benefit both commuters and seniors

MassMobility thanks Tim O'Day, Executive Director of SCM Elderbus, for submitting this guest article. If you would like to submit an article or have an idea for a topic, please contact us. 


SCM Elderbus, based in Charlton, recently expanded its hours of operations within two communities in response to customer requests for additional transit services. Elderbus, a 501 (C) 3 non-profit corporation, provides transportation to senior and disabled residents within its 21 town service area. Elderbus provides the service under contract to the Worcester Regional Transit Authority. In September of 2012, Elderbus expanded its scope of services to include work-related transportation to residents within selected communities without restriction based on age or disability status. The new service, called Readybus, was initially implemented as a pilot program. The popularity of the Readybus service allowed Elderbus to apply for and receive a grant to continue the program for the current fiscal year.


The organization received numerous inquiries from potential Readybus clients requesting an earlier morning service. Both the Elderbus and Readybus transportation services operated from 8 AM to 4 PM Monday through Friday. The requests for an earlier service would allow the potential clients that had to be to work before 8 AM to utilize the service.


In response to the customer requests, the Company expanded its hours of operations within the towns of Southbridge and Webster, primarily for the Readybus (work-related) service. Effective July 1, road operations within these two communities now begin at 6 AM (as opposed to the previous 8 AM start time). The earlier start time was again implemented as a pilot program in order to evaluate actual demand. The initial demand for the new service has been encouraging. Ride totals during the 6 to 8 AM timeframe have steadily increased during the first three months of operation (43 rides during July; 65 rides during August; 77 rides during September).


An unexpected result of the expanded service is the number of senior and disabled clients utilizing the earlier start for non-work related purposes. The organization, for example, has transported a number of clients to local healthcare facilities for early morning lab work. Other individuals are taking advantage of the earlier service to complete their grocery shopping when stores are generally less hectic. Although the majority of the early morning trips are work related, approximately 20% of the September trips completed were for other purposes.


As a pilot program, the success of the earlier start time will be evaluated after one year. The goal is to deliver 80 to 100 trips per month on a consistent basis during the earlier start time. Based on the early results, the goal appears to be within reach.

Governor Patrick thanks SCCCT

Following the recommendations of the Paratransit Commission, MassDOT and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services established a Statewide Coordinating Council on Community Transportation (SCCCT) in September 2013. Last month, Governor Patrick awarded the SCCCT a citation thanking the group for its work improving mobility for paratransit and community transportation users across the Commonwealth.


SCCCT members received copies of the citation at the quarterly SCCCT meeting on October 24. During the meeting, the council released its annual report. In addition, MassDOT shared updates on its research into the paratransit eligibility applications used at transit authorities around the state, and MassMobility staff provided an update on our work to support volunteer driver programs and travel instruction programs across Massachusetts. SCCCT members discussed barriers to mobility caused by infrastructure or lack thereof, such as how lack of sidewalks can impede access to transit services.
Funding updates

Keep an eye on the Tufts Health Plan FoundationIn early December, they will release an updated website with information about 2015 funding cycles and eligible applicants. The foundation will focus its investments in three areas: systems and best practices, policy and advocacy, and the President's Leadership Fund. The foundation is looking to fund grants that promote age friendly communities. Collaborative efforts around transportation are eligible.


MArtap's Helping Hands mini-grant applications are open through November 30. Learn more from


The FTA has made funding available for workforce development programs to support the public transit workforce. Transit agencies, higher education institutions, planning agencies, and nonprofits are eligible to apply.


The Route 128 Business Council is trying a new approach. They have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $320,000 for dynamic routing of shuttles based on rider demand.


Bookmark our transportation calendar for information about funding opportunities and deadlines.
Regional Coordinating Councils address local community transportation gaps

Around Massachusetts, Regional Coordinating Councils (RCCs) have been busy working to improve mobility for seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, and low-income commuters in their regions. Highlights from the past month include the following:

  • In October, the Berkshire County RCC partnered with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission to hold a public outreach session on the region's Coordinated Human Service Transportation Plan
  • The Greater Franklin County RCC met in November as part of the Franklin Regional Transit Authority's Transit Advisory Committee to work on developing a one-page inventory of community transportation services available in the region
  • The Pioneer Valley RCC heard a presentation from MassRIDES about the NuRide carpool matching platform and their work with local employers
  • Stakeholders from Hilltowns in rural Hampden and Hampshire Counties met to discuss transportation resources and needs in their communities
  • The Central Massachusetts RCC decided to establish working groups to address priority issues
  • The South East RCC hosted a forum on medical transportation (details in separate article above)
  • The Southcoast RCC explored the option of combining with the South East RCC. Members also discussed the need to incorporate planning for access to transit in economic development projects, such as the new Amazon warehouse being developed in Fall River
  • The Montachusett Regional Planning Commission presented to the North Central RCC on the area's Coordinated Human Service Transportation Plan
  • The Merrimack Valley RCC met and discussed the need for travel training in their region

To learn more about RCCs, visit our webpage on RCC accomplishments. To get involved with your local RCC, contact us.

Regional Coordinating Councils to launch in Boston area

MassDOT and MassMobility staff have been working with local organizations to launch RCCs in the Boston area. On November 19, Aniko Laszlo of MassDOT and Tanja Ryden from the HST Office presented on RCCs at a forum on transportation gaps in the Neponset Valley region.


The Boston Core RCC, covering Boston and Brookline, will launch on December 9. Get the details or contact us to RSVP.


Finally, planning is underway to kick off an RCC in late January for the Boston North region, covering the communities of Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Melrose, North Reading, Reading, Revere, Saugus, Somerville, Stoneham, Wakefield, and Winthrop. To get involved, please contact us.

MBTA discusses advocacy, accessibility, and proposed changes to The RIDE

On November 19, the MBTA held three meetings related to accessibility.


The Access Advisory Committee to the MBTA (AACT) Disability Transportation Forum convened at 8:30 AM. The theme of the forum was "The Power of Advocacy," and speakers from the T, THE RIDE, the City of Boston, the FTA, and MassMobility touched on issues that can be addressed or supported through advocacy at the individual or local level. There was a particular focus on snow and ice removal, as both the T and the city of Boston are looking into ways to improve snow removal on sidewalks, at crosswalks, and at bus stops. By submitting complaints about bus stops that are not properly cleared, advocates can help the T enforce their snow-clearing contracts.

At the regular monthly AACT membership meeting, MassDOT presented updates on the Casey Overpass Project in Boston, which will replace the currently deficient bridge with an at-grade roadway. Many pedestrian upgrades are included in this plan, such as pedestrian buffers in the middle of the street, ramps wide enough for two wheelchairs to pass each other, and ramps dedicated to bicycles to reduce bike-ped conflict at crossing zones. In addition, they will add a new entrance to the Forest Hills station to allow pedestrians access to the T without crossing the Arborway.

At the end of the day, RIDE representatives presented a new proposal for a consolidated Central Call and Control Center. If implemented, this consolidation would remove the scheduling, dispatch, and reservation functions from the three RIDE vendors and create a centralized location which would handle these functions for all three vendors at once. This shift is anticipated to streamline the scheduling process, help reduce transfers, and free up dispatch staff so that wait times would be reduced. Over 100 people attended the meeting, and more public outreach will take place over the next few months. If you are interested in learning more, call The RIDE customer service number at (617) 222-5123 or email

Coming up in December

Celebrate Older Driver Safety Awareness Week December 1-5. Check out these terrific resources for mature drivers from the Massachusetts RMV.


On December 9, stakeholders from Boston and Brookline are invited to the launch of the Boston Core Regional Coordinating Council. Find out more on our calendar, or contact us to RSVP.


Early in December, the Tufts Health Plan Foundation will release an updated website with information about 2015 funding cycles and eligible applicants. 


December will be a busy month for travel instruction. In early December, the Kennedy Center will conduct the second in a series of workshops for travel trainers funded by MassDOT. On December 16, the Massachusetts Travel Instruction Network will meet to discuss working with trainees with Autism. If you are a travel trainer or are looking to develop a travel training program, please contact us to learn more about the network.

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