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Happy spring - finally! This April 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 which programs will receive federal and state funding through the Community Transit Grant Program this year, how a Regional Coordinating Council is helping homelessness advocates address transportation barriers in Southeastern Massachusetts, transportation equity in Springfield, and other updates from regions around Massachusetts.

MassDOT announces Community Transit Grant Program awards for 2016

MassDOT announced the winners of this year's round of Community Transit Grant Program funding. Selected projects include awards for vehicles, service operations, mobility management programs, and bus and bus facilities projects.

Advocates for homeless families join RCC to help address transportation barriers

Homeless families who receive temporary housing in motels often lack access to the transportation they need to get to work, medical appointments, grocery stores, and other key destinations. For help addressing these barriers, advocates in Southeastern Massachusetts have turned to their Regional Coordinating Council. Janet Richardi, Coordinator of the South Coast Regional Network to End Homelessness, and Nancy Lawson, Coordinator for Emergency Solutions at Catholic Social Services, are active members of the South East Regional Coordinating Council on Transportation (SERCCOT).

 

When SERCCOT first launched, United Way of Greater Attleboro/Taunton Director of Community Impact Melissa Vanhorn suggested that Richardi connect with the group. She has been an active participant ever since. Lawson got involved at the suggestion of Joanne LaFerrara, Director of Customer Service at the Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority (GATRA).

 

"This group has been instrumental in helping us identify the needs that have been unmet, and in assisting us to meet those needs," says Lawson. "Transportation is one of the biggest barriers that homeless people face, and SERCCOT's intensive work gathering us all together is really working - slowly but steadily."

 

"I've learned a lot from RCC meetings," adds Richardi. "Ride Match is just amazing, and I refer people there a lot." Developed by GATRA, Ride Match is an online, searchable transportation database that includes public and private transportation options. "Even better has been the opportunity to build relationships with key people at transportation organizations who are passionate about helping people find ways to get where they need to go." Through SERCCOT, Richardi has developed a relationship with staff at local Regional Transit Agencies and the local Regional Planning Agency, who have provided information about bus routes near the motels and who also help address specific families' individual transportation needs. She recommends that homeless advocates in other regions also join Regional Coordinating Councils so they can bring the story of the homeless to the forefront.

MBTA enrolls youth in pilot reduced fare program

The MBTA, in partnership with the Cities of Boston, Chelsea, Malden, and Somerville, invite youth age 12-21 to participate in a pilot Youth Pass program. The pilot will offer reduced fare subway and bus passes for $26 per month. In some partner cities, $7 weekly passes will also be available.

 

Youth should enroll by April 30 to have their application entered into a lottery. The pilot will accept 1,500 participants, and the program will start July 1.

 

Twelve year olds must apply in person. Youth aged 13-19 may apply online. Youth aged 19-21 have to meet additional eligibility criteria and demonstrate enrollment in education or a federal or state benefits program.
PVPC wins transportation equity grant

The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC), in partnership with LiveWell Springfield, has received a grant from the Leadership Conference Education Fund and PolicyLink to incorporate a focus on transportation equity into their capacity-building work among disadvantaged communities in Springfield. PVPC and LiveWell Springfield will engage community leaders in Springfield in the transportation planning process, promote the agenda of the Equity Caucus, and help participants understand federal and state transportation funding. PVPC and LiveWell Springfield will also invite other organizations to sign on to the Equity Caucus agenda of affordable transportation, fair access to jobs, inclusive communities, and equitable investment in transportation. The team will hold a series of capacity-building workshops for participants, which will culminate in a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with the other grant recipients. The ultimate goal of this work is to increase the participation of members of disadvantaged communities in the city planning process and help them move into positions of power in the city.

 

LiveWell Springfield, a health equity organization, has been collaborating with PVPC on a variety of community-building projects since 2012. Among other priorities, PVPC and LiveWell Springfield have been focusing on access to biking and pedestrian facilities as part of their work on Springfield's Complete Streets policy, and the new initiative will build on this work by engaging community members in all aspects of transportation planning.

 

A community event on May 12 will kick off this project with a talk by Dr. Beverly Scott, outgoing General Manager of the MBTA. To RSVP or learn more, please email Catherine Ratt.

Advocates stand up for transportation in Greenfield

On April 9, approximately 20 transit supporters gathered in Greenfield to discuss the importance of transportation and infrastructure and to urge Congress to pass the GROW AMERICA Act. Without Congressional action, federal transportation funding is set to expire on May 31. Transportation Justice for Franklin County hosted this informational event, which was coordinated with other communities across the country as part of Stand up for Transportation Day.

 

Jon Weissman, an organizer with Western Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, spoke about the effectiveness of building coalitions to create a successful campaign for improved funding. Transportation Justice for Franklin County also showed a new video of interviews of bus riders filmed at the John W. Olver Transit Center and a local church in Greenfield. In addition, attendees were invited to share their opinions, questions, and ideas.

 

Staff from the Franklin Regional Transit Authority and Franklin Regional Council of Governments attended and helped answer questions. Congressman Jim McGovern submitted a letter in support of steady funding for transportation and infrastructure.

Bus driver's suggestion doubles ridership

MassMobility thanks the Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority (GATRA) for submitting this guest article, which originally appeared in the spring issue of their TravelLinks Newsletter. If you would like to submit an article or have an idea for a topic, please contact us.   

 

GATRA is pleased to report that ridership on the Tri-Town Connector more than doubled in March, despite record snow falls and below freezing temperatures.

 

The increase may be attributed to a suggestion that was made by GATRA bus driver John Griffin earlier this year. Griffin told GATRA staff that he often dropped off passengers at the Liberty Pines housing complex off Creek Street in Wrentham and suggested that maybe we should add a scheduled stop at the facility. 

 

GATRA staff then contacted Christine Estrela, the Property Manager at Liberty Pines, to see if the residents would be interested in learning more about GATRA's services. The primary goal was to gauge interest and see if the residents would actually utilize the new service. We asked the residents to complete a transportation needs survey, which over 20 people completed.

 

As it turns out, more than half of the residents who completed the survey said they would definitely use the Tri-Town Connector service one to three times weekly, so GATRA began making regular stops at Liberty Pines on March 2. Since then, the ridership has soared! "The service has been a true lifeline for our residents," said Estrela. "Many people at Liberty Pines don't have cars, and this provides them with greater independence."

 
The Tri-Town Connector operates Monday through Friday from 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM, and on Saturday from 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM, and makes several stops along its route, including Wrentham Center and senior center, Foxborough's Patriot Place Marketplace and medical centers, and the Norfolk Center and MBTA station, as well as the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Norfolk. 
The one-way regular cash fare is $1.00. Students, seniors, and persons with disabilities pay only 50 cents to ride.

Employers recognized for supporting green commuting at ECO Awards

On March 26, MassDOT, MassRIDES, and MassCommute honored over 170 Massachusetts businesses, colleges, and universities for promoting green commuting options to their employees at the fifth annual Excellence in Commuter Options (ECO) Awards ceremony. Green commutes include using transit, biking, walking, carpooling, and vanpooling. These modes reduce emissions and mitigate congestion.

 

ECO Awards recognize employers for a wide range of programs or policies such as sharing information about commuter options, helping employees find carpool partners or form vanpools, designating a staff person to serve as a transportation coordinator, providing showers and lockers for people who bike or walk to work, offering pre-tax commuter benefits or subsidies, and participating in statewide events such as Bay State Bike Week or the Massachusetts Clean Air Challenge.

 

Employers can receive awards at the Pacesetter, Leader, or Pinnacle level, depending on their level of involvement, as well as Spotlight Awards to recognize employers that go above and beyond. This year's Spotlight winners included Staples in the carpool category and MassMutual Life Insurance Company in the vanpool category. Over 300 Staples employees carpool in 150 active carpools, and the company makes it easy for employees to find carpool resources at their Commuter Center and through their employee intranet. MassMutual provides a 40% vanpool subsidy and makes information easily accessible in new employee orientation, during open enrollment periods, and online.

 

To be eligible for an award, employers must partner with MassRIDES or participate in a Transportation Management Association through MassCommute.

Regional Coordinating Councils work to improve mobility around Massachusetts

As winter melts into spring, Regional Coordinating Councils (RCCs) around the state have been busy addressing mobility needs in their regions. For example:

  • Berkshire County RCC disseminated their updated transportation inventory by posting it in public places around Berkshire County. They also distributed a press release to secure coverage in local media.
  • North Central RCC heard updates from members, including an effort by the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority and Montachusett Regional Planning Commission to post maps in every bus shelter.
  • Boston Core RCC discussed transportation inventories. Attendees shared examples from their organizations, and the group brainstormed how to centralize the information and make it more accessible to people in need of rides.
  • Boston North RCC launched in March.
  • Brockton Area RCC discussed travel training and transit updates.
  • South East Regional Coordinating Council on Transportation (SERCCOT) is working to increase awareness of Ride Match and foster coordination in the Wareham area. The group is also planning a forum on education and employment transportation for November 2015.
  • Two new RCCs - in the South Shore and Neponset Valley areas - are planning launches for May.

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

Coming up in May

Many of you have registered to join us for the Massachusetts Community Transportation Conference on May 5. The conference is full, but contact us to get on the waitlist.

 

The annual Bay State Bike Week is coming up on May 9 to 17. Is biking part of how seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, or low-income individuals get around in your community? Let us know.

 

Join the Kennedy Center May 18-20 in Framingham for a workshop on travel training. Learn about key components of a travel training program to help seniors and people with disabilities learn to ride transit independently and safely. The workshop is free thanks to funding from MassDOT, but registration is required. Contact us to get the enrollment form.

 

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 twitter.com/MassMobility/.

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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.