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This February issue of MassMobility contains news about community transportation, human service transportation coordination, and mobility management in Massachusetts. This newsletter is compiled by the MassMobility team, which is housed in the Human Service Transportation (HST) Office of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

Read on to learn about a hospital convening stakeholders to discuss medical transportation, an interfaith organizing initiative focusing on transportation needs in Berkshire County, upcoming workshops for travel trainers, and more updates from around Massachusetts.


MassMobility would also like to thank all the bus and demand-response drivers, maintenance workers, mobility managers, and other transit staff who have been working day in and day out to help Massachusetts residents travel safely despite record snowfall.

Hospital convenes forum on medical transportation

CDHCCooley Dickinson Health Care (CDHC), in partnership with the United Way of Pioneer Valley and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, convened stakeholders in Northampton on February 11 to discuss the results of the "Getting to Healthy" initiative, which examines transportation barriers to healthcare in the region. A wide range of community partners attended, representing transportation providers, planning agencies, community organizations, and a full complement of healthcare workers. The Getting to Healthy report released by CDHC includes an analysis of current transportation initiatives, with a section discussing the Human Service Transportation Office and the Regional Coordinating Councils in the Hilltowns, Pioneer Valley, and Franklin County areas.

CDHC became interested in transportation after conducting a Community Health Needs Assessment and seeing that transportation was a top barrier to accessing healthcare in the region, particularly for disadvantaged populations. CDHC started out looking for ways to improve transportation, but later expanded its focus to also explore non-traditional ways to provide services to patients. The report focuses on the following areas: 

  • Improving the current transportation system
  • Co-locating healthcare services in existing service delivery sites
  • Bringing care to patients
  • Using technology to mitigate the need for patients to travel to the hospital
  • Transferring hospital specialist knowledge to primary care providers to expand access to such care

Attendees broke out into smaller sub-groups for focused discussions on these topics. The conversation was lively, and each group made recommendations for the hospital to pursue. After reviewing the recommendations from the report and the forum discussion, CDHC will develop and implement a pilot program.

Thank you to Dr. Scott

On February 11, MBTA General Manager Dr. Beverly Scott announced her resignation as of April 11. MassMobility would like to thank Dr. Scott for her work emphasizing the importance of accessible and affordable transportation.

Volunteer driver program staff come together to discuss best practices

Thirty-five people braved the snowy streets to attend a forum for people who work on volunteer driver programs at the Plymouth Council on Aging (COA) on February 4. MassMobility hosted the forum, which was co-sponsored by SRPEDD, OCPC, and the Plymouth COA.

Both volunteers and program staff attended, and the discussion covered best practices, different types of models of volunteer driver programs, and information about risk, insurance, and liability. Participants shared information about their programs, including liability waiver forms, intake processes, and volunteer recruitment strategies. Several members of the group reported that they got new ideas from talking to others about their programs. 

This forum was part of an effort to create a statewide network of volunteer driver programs to facilitate ongoing communication channels for brainstorming and sharing information. If you are interested in hosting or attending a forum, or learning more about MassMobility resources for volunteer drivers, please contact us or visit our volunteer driver programs website.

Interfaith initiative with transportation focus launches in Berkshire County

BIOOn January 25, more than 200 members of 14 religious congregations and regional sponsoring organizations met in Pittsfield to celebrate the birth of Berkshire Interfaith Organizing (BIO), a new county-wide community organization. The event highlighted BIO's initial issue campaigns of improving transportation to jobs and medical care and reducing food insecurity. Many elected officials attended, including Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Representative Paul Mark, Senator Ben Downing, and Mayor Daniel Bianchi. Staff from Congressman Richard Neal's office also attended.


Clergy and lay leaders and their regional affiliates in the Berkshires have been working for more than two years to create this faith- and values-based multi-issue organization that will build community, develop leadership skills, and tackle problems that affect poor and working poor families in the Berkshires. Lauryn Levesque, BIO's new President and a member of First Church of Christ on Park Square in Pittsfield, explained, "As congregations we know that simply increasing the amount of direct service we provide is not enough.  We need to get to the root of these problems, and combining our voices and working with others already focused on these issues will bring more power to solving these problems."


Lack of adequate transportation emerged early in conversations as a priority for members of many partnering congregations. Moira Jones, Moderator of the First Congregational Church of Williamstown, was one of the first to bring transportation barriers to the group, and shared her story at the launch event. Her daughter has a learning disability that has prevented her from getting a driver's license. She has graduated from college and would like to live in the Berkshires and work at a museum, but since she is dependent on public transit, she will likely have to move out of the region to a larger city. For county residents who cannot afford a car or who live far from public transit, lack of transportation options imposes an economic hardship.


BIO has established a work team to address the transportation issues. Members of the work team have attended Berkshire County Regional Coordinating Council meetings, and the work group has met with the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority leadership and each of the county's state legislators, who have all committed to work with the organization to seek systemic solutions to these pressing problems. BIO is already starting on its first transportation effort: supporting Berkshire Community Action Council's effort to offer county-wide employment transportation for low-wage workers.

Local complete streets policies receive national recognition

Eight Massachusetts municipalities passed complete streets legislation in 2014 - more than any other state except New Jersey, according to a report released February 10 by Smart Growth America. The report ranked each of the 74 local policies that passed in 2014 according to 10 criteria, and five Massachusetts municipalities made the top 10 list. Acton, Middleton, Reading, and Salem tied for sixth, while Stoughton tied for tenth.


A complete streets approach considers the needs of people of all ages, abilities, and transportation modes in planning, implementation, and maintenance of transportation networks. This approach recognizes that car travel is not the only way we get around and that roads and communities should also support walking, biking, and transit.


Congratulations are in store not only for these five municipalities, but also for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), whose complete streets staff worked closely with four of the five municipalities recognized in the report. MAPC's complete streets program started in 2013 as part of the organization's public health work and transferred to its transportation department last year.


MAPC's Regional Planner Chris Kuschel identifies municipalities working on related initiatives - such as a bike plan, transportation equity effort, or Mass in Motion - and partners with a champion in the local government. He helps them convene key stakeholders to develop and implement a complete streets policy.


Towns that are interested should contact Kuschel if they are in the MAPC service area, or their local Regional Planning Agency if they are not one of the 101 cities and towns served by MAPC. Residents interested in enacting a complete streets policy in their community should contact town or city officials.

MWRTA's transportation workforce training program celebrates successful first 7 months

State Senator Karen Spilka joined MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA) staff, local human service agencies, colleges and universities, businesses, and program participants on February 6 to celebrate a successful first seven months of MWRTA's commercial driver's license (CDL) training program. MWRTA partners with local housing authorities, workforce development organizations, and One Stop Career Centers to recruit unemployed and underemployed people into an expedited, high-quality training that prepares participants to receive a CDL with passenger endorsement. This license prepares graduates for jobs at transportation providers including MWRTA.


Last year, the MetroWest region was facing a dire shortage of transit workers. To address this need while also helping unemployed people train for careers, Senator Spilka secured $100,000 in state workforce development funding for the program. As a result, MWRTA has been able to offer the training without charging tuition. Most fees associated with the licensing exam are reimbursable.


To date, 16 participants have graduated, and another 33 are currently enrolled. Graduates have found jobs with MWRTA's operating company and other transportation providers, alleviating the region's driver shortage. Participation in the program does not guarantee a job, but staff provide assistance to graduates in their job search. 


"It is incredible to see how successful the MWRTA CDL program has been in such a short period of time," said Senator Spilka. "This program is a terrific example of how a workforce development program can serve many community needs. It addresses a growing demand for a proficient, technically competent public transportation workforce in MetroWest and statewide. The program is also helping to equip people with necessary skills for available jobs."


For details on the MWRTA CDL program's curriculum and qualifications, visit MWRTA's CDL webpage or contact Sara White at (508) 935-2222.

Needs assessment highlights transportation barriers in Franklin, Hampshire, and North Quabbin regions

Community Action is the largest anti-poverty nonprofit serving Franklin and Hampshire Counties and the North Quabbin region. Every three years, the organization conducts a needs assessment and develops an action plan based on the findings. In the recently released 2015-2017 plan, transportation emerged as an important need in the region.


The prominence of transportation barriers came as no surprise to Community Action staff. Given the rural nature of the region, access to a car is extremely helpful to reach jobs, as many employers are not located on bus routes. However, 72 percent of respondents in a survey of lower-income adults reported needing a car for employment but lacking funds to pay for repairs or maintenance, while 56 percent reported difficulty affording gas. Respondents described their strategies, such as "Pay very minimum insurance, which is scary," "I walk as much as I can to save gas money," or "I only drive when necessary; I plan all errands to do at once." They also shared their concerns: "When my car breaks down, I don't know what I will do."


Lack of transportation exacerbates other basic needs, such as access to healthcare or childcare. In one survey, 34% of people using food banks had to choose between paying for food and paying for transportation. Lack of transportation also creates an obstacle to voting.


The report identifies some creative approaches Community Action could pursue to help reduce the transportation barriers in the region, such as a car donation program, asset development programs to help people save for and afford cars, and ridesharing. The organization is also identifying ways to bring its services to people instead of requiring individuals to come into the office for appointments, such as making applications available on mobile phones or sending outreach workers into communities. While taking on any of these new approaches would require funding, Community Action is already participating in collaborative transportation efforts such as the Franklin Regional Transit Authority's Transit Advisory Committee and the Getting to Healthy partnership described in a previous article.

Kennedy Center returns to offer more workshops for travel trainers

The Kennedy Center is accepting enrollments for two three-day workshops for Massachusetts travel trainers to be held April 15-17 in Andover and May 18-20 in Framingham. Travel trainers from transit authorities, human service agencies, and educational settings are invited to sign up. Travel training is individualized, one-on-one teaching to help a senior or person with a disabilitiy learn the skills needed to ride transit independently and safely. While there is no cost to attend, participants are on their own for any travel or hotel expenses. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.


Each session will be the same as the workshops held in October in Raynham and December in Worcester, which received excellent reviews from participants. The workshops are targeted to people new to travel training, but more experienced travel trainers are also welcome. They cover key topics such as intake, street crossing, stranger danger, and safety.


These workshops are available thanks to funding from MassDOT. MassDOT planned this series of workshops in partnership with the Massachusetts Travel Instruction Network, an informal peer network for anyone involved in travel training in Massachusetts.


To sign up for the April or May training, contact us to receive the enrollment form.

MArtap announces new training partner

RLS & Associates, an Ohio-based consulting firm, has been awarded a contract to provide regional training to rural and small urban public transit staff and drivers in Massachusetts. RLS has overseen the rural transit assistance project in Ohio since 1989. In the last seven years, RLS has also taken on the rural transit assistance programs for Indiana, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire.


MArtap and RLS have collaborated to develop a revised training curriculum. Read MArtap's letter introducing RLS or visit MArtap's website for more information.

Sheffield church offers volunteer driver program

One church that is a member of the Berkshire Interfaith Organizing effort (described above) decided to provide volunteer drivers for people who need rides now, while working on systemic solutions through BIO. MassMobility thanks Revered Annie Ryder of the Christ Trinity Church in Sheffield for submitting this guest article.


Our church is located in Sheffield, in the bottom southwest corner of Massachusetts, with a population around 3,000. There are lots of farms, a regional school, businesses, churches, historic homes and landmarks, and (unless you are a senior or disabled) no public transportation. Our concern is also for the young, the working poor, and anyone without access to a car.


In the summer of 2013, our membership met for a picnic to determine a mission project we could engage in to help our neighbors. Many options were raised, but transportation made it to the top. We felt we needed information and decided to hold a community transportation forum and partner with the Senior Center.


We held the transportation forum that November and felt it was a helpful first step. Still the always-timely need for transportation was not getting solved very fast. Eventually we decided to "bite the bullet" and offer free local transportation with our church's volunteer drivers. Additional volunteer insurance was purchased at the urging of our governing board. A classified ad was placed in the local Shopper's Guide, and information went out to Meals on Wheels recipients. And so we began.


We have not received many calls, but we have helped take people to medical appointments, shopping, grocery shopping and food pantries, and church. An older summer resident needed twice weekly rides to physical therapy. Coordinating with our local Senior Center, we were able to get her to her appointments. 


We also got a call from a young man in his early 30's, living just south of us in Canaan, CT, who needed a ride each week to bowl in Great Barrington. It was a legitimate need for an important leisure and social activity, but was out of our designated service area and involved two 25 mile trips every Monday. We decided to give it a try. One of our volunteers picked him up at home, while another volunteer did the return trip. We enjoyed the young man's company, and he ended up helping us at a church event.


Notice of our service has been distributed throughout the town on a transportation information pamphlet. We are glad we can offer this service.

New report highlights best practices from around the country

Looking for inspiration from elsewhere? Check out the Promising Practices in Mobility Management reports from the National Center for Mobility Management. The most recent report - published earlier this year - highlights examples of how transportation services can be integrated across modes.


For more local examples of best practices, check out the MassMobility community transportation reports. If you have a best practice that you think others might like to replicate, let us know!

Coming up in March

On March 2, the Community Transit Grant Program application closes at 5 PM. All applications must be submitted before the deadline.

March 27 is the last day to submit applications for the Healthcare Access Design Mobility Challenge from the National Center for Mobility Management. 
Up to $25,000 is available for each of eight teams to research healthcare access needs and develop a business plan to address them.


Many Regional Coordinating Councils (RCCs) have meetings scheduled for March. RCCs bring community transportation stakeholders together to improve mobility, and each RCC defines its own priorities and strategies. To learn more about RCCs, visit our webpage on RCC accomplishments. To get involved with your local RCC, contact us.


For more upcoming events related to community transportation and coordination, check out our calendar.

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Are you on Twitter? If so, follow us @MassMobility for links to community transportation resources relevant to organizations and agencies here in Massachusetts. If you aren't on Twitter, you can still see our posts online at

We want to know your stories

If you have suggestions for news items or topics to cover in future newsletters, please contact us or submit a guest article. Comments, questions, and feedback are also welcome.

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You can also read past issues of all MassMobility newsletters.