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July is birthday month for two key policies that help make transportation available and accessible to all. Please join us in wishing happy birthday to the Older Americans Act, which turned 50 on July 14, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which turns 25 on July 26.

This July issue of MassMobility contains news about community transportation, human service transportation coordination, and mobility management in Massachusetts. Read on to learn about a pilot to make public transit affordable to youth; new services in Scituate,  
Waltham, and Franklin County; age-friendly initiatives in Berkshire County; an opportunity for volunteer driver programs to connect with peers; and more community transportation news from around 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.

Youth Pass launches July 1

Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack, city officials, and youth advocates held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 1 to mark the launch of the Youth Pass pilot. The Youth Pass is a reduced fare monthly or weekly pass for the MBTA bus and subway systems. The monthly pass costs $26, and the weekly pass is $7.


The pilot was open to youth age 12 to 18 in Boston, Chelsea, Malden, or Somerville who did not already have a student pass from their school. Youth age 19 to 21 who showed proof of enrollment in an educational, job training, or state or federal benefit program were also eligible. To date, 3,500 youth have applied for 1,500 slots in the pilot.


"When I moved to Boston, I didn't have any children, and taking a train was 85 cents. It's gotten higher over the years and now, as a single mother of three, it's difficult," said Kristina Mateo of Dorchester, parent of two program participants.


The Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition began advocating for a reduced fare youth pass in 2007. Last year, MassDOT invited advocates to work with MBTA staff to develop a pilot. The pilot includes data collection that will enable MassDOT to evaluate the benefits to youth, the costs, and the feasibility of having partners administer reduced fare products. 


"I was convinced by our youth advocates of how important affordable public transit is to them. The Orange Line is one of our City's greatest assets, and we want everyone to be able to afford this convenience," said City of Malden Mayor Gary Christenson. "We are very proud to be one of the first four cities in Massachusetts to launch this pilot program and provide a reduced fare pass to our youth."


"The Youth Pass Pilot is a step in the right direction to find new and innovative ways to provide access at a price that is affordable for young people to get to work, school, and extracurricular activities," Governor Charlie Baker said.

New services begin operations in Scituate and Waltham

On July 2, the Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority (GATRA) launched the Scituate Loop (Sloop), which connects the Greenbush commuter rail station to Scituate Harbor with intermediate stops at senior housing, the senior center, the town hall, a golf course, and other destinations. The Sloop runs from 6 AM to 8 PM Monday through Friday and from 9 AM to 6 PM on Saturdays and Sundays.


"The Town is excited to partner with GATRA to finally bring long overdue public transit to residents, businesses and tourists in Scituate," said town administrator Patricia A. Vinchesi. "'This achieves a long-term goal of town officials to connect the train to the Harbor. The route is particularly geared to our senior population with stops at Central Park and Wheeler Park. We hope it will be widely used so we can expand it to North Scituate, and we are looking forward to a long relationship with GATRA and the excellent services they provide," added Vinchesi.


Waltham launched the Tick Tock Trolley on June 18 to make parking easier for people visiting downtown locations on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. The trolley runs from 6 to 11 PM through downtown Waltham, stopping near bus stops, parking lots, restaurants, and businesses. The trolley is an initiative of the Mayor's Office, in partnership with the City Planner and Traffic Engineer, Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Council, Downtown Waltham Partnership, Waltham Local First, and Ward Councillors. The original purchase of the trolley was primarily funded with city funds, as well as a grant from the Watertown Savings Bank. The City previously used the trolley for city-sponsored events and will continue to do so.

New volunteer driver program launches in Franklin County

Franklin County Home Care Corporation seeks volunteers for Rides for Health, a new program that provides healthcare transportation and medical escort service. Seniors and people with disabilities who are home care clients can get help with transportation to any healthcare-related venue, such as filling a prescription at a local pharmacy or traveling to a long-distance appointment with a specialist in Springfield.


While developing the program, Program Director Trevor Boeding conducted interviews with local seniors to determine their specific needs. Many reported canceling or missing appointments due to lack of transportation. Others reported needing additional assistance not available from existing options: "Buses are totally out of the question with the walker, as balance is my main issue and there is no one to help with getting on the bus unless you bring someone with you," explained one senior.


Rides for Health volunteers offer door-through-door assisted transportation. Volunteers may also serve as an escort and provide assistance to a client using public transportation. Volunteers stay with the client during their appointment.


New volunteers receive a half-day training and then are matched with a client. Clients contact their volunteer directly to arrange transportation. The first volunteer training is scheduled for July 23. To learn more - or to download a volunteer application - visit the Rides for Health website.

Task Force seeks to make Berkshire County age-friendly

MassMobility thanks Bobbie Orsi, Director of Community Relations at Home Instead Senior Care, for submitting this guest article. If you would like to submit an article or have an idea for a topic, please contact us.  


In June, the Berkshire County Age Friendly Vision 2020 Task Force was accepted into the AARP/WHO Age Friendly Network and awarded a Tufts Health Plan Foundation grant to advance our work. The task force, a coalition of 27 local organizations led by Home Instead Senior Care, launched in earnest on June 1 with an Active Aging Summit. One hundred fifty people from around Berkshire County attended the Summit.


An Age-Friendly Community is committed to improving both the physical and social environments that surround a community's seniors. It facilitates independence and neighborhood cohesion and assures accessible housing, ease of public transportation, readily available fresh foods, safe and inviting public spaces, and a vibrant workforce that is aware of issues facing older adults.


We are grateful to the Tufts Foundation for their support. As our county begins to experience the transformational demographic shift in our population with the aging of baby boomers, this support will help us to realize the possibilities that this shift will offer us - not the limitations. We are excited to work towards a county where everyone can be healthy, active, and engaged as long as possible.

National employment transportation report highlights READYBUS

Published in May, Getting to Work: Effective State Solutions to Help People with Transportation Challenges Access Jobs discusses vanpools, worker subsidies and employer incentives, car ownership programs, and transportation coordination strategies that states are using to help residents get to work.  This National Conference of State Legislatures report closes with a feature on coordination in Massachusetts - including the Regional Coordinating Councils - and highlights the READYBUS employment transportation program from Central Massachusetts. 

New reports provide data on seniors' need for transportation

The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging released a report analyzing inquiries to the national Eldercare Locator system in 2014. Out of over 270,000 inquiries submitted by email, phone, or chat, the most common reason people contacted the Eldercare Locator was for transportation needs. Nineteen percent of all inquiries regarded transportation. Of these calls, 78 percent were requests for help finding medical transportation. Read more.


A June 2015 report on unpaid caregiving from the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP found that 78 percent of caregivers offer help with transportation.


The Government Accountability Office provided an update to a 2011 report on seniors' unmet needs for social services. The report estimates that 20 percent of people age 65 and over have transportation needs.

MassDOT seeks public input on intercity and commuter bus routes

MassDOT is conducting a study to identify gaps in regional bus service as part of a plan to expand service in underserved areas. Regional bus service includes both intercity and commuter bus routes. Surveys for the public are available online in English, as well as Chinese, Portuguese, and Spanish.

New statewide email list connects volunteer driver programs to peers

Calling all volunteer driver program staff, drivers, and anyone interested in starting a volunteer driver program - join the new Massachusetts volunteer driver programs email discussion list! Connect with peers, share best practices, and brainstorm solutions to shared challenges. Contact Theadora Fisher to join or to learn more.

Coming up in August

The Association of Travel Instruction's annual, national conference is coming to Boston August 12-14! Connect with travel instructors from around the country and learn tips and tools from experts. Ways2Go will welcome attendees the night of August 11 with an introduction to the MBTA at the MBTA's Emergency Training Center. Register for the conference online.


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

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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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