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We hope you are having a wonderful summer!

This August issue of MassMobility contains news about community transportation, human service transportation coordination, and mobility management in Massachusetts. Read on to learn about a new transportation initiative taking off in the rural Hilltown region of Western Massachusetts, a national travel instruction conference held in Boston, falls prevention in the North Shore, improvements to online trip planning data from MassDOT, and more community transportation news from around Massachusetts.

This newsletter is compiled by the MassMobility team, an initiative of the 
Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services in partnership with MassDOT.
Hilltowns receive grant to study transportation

The Tufts Health Plan Foundation has awarded a $25,000 grant to the Hilltown Community Development Corporation (CDC) to work with the Hilltown Regional Coordinating Council (RCC) on transportation issues in the rural parts of Hampden and Hampshire Counties, with a preliminary focus on seniors. This grant aligns with the foundation's goal of supporting age-friendly communities.


In addition to the Hilltown CDC, the Hilltown RCC has representatives from Councils on Aging, the Hilltown Community Health Centers, Highland Valley Elder Services, Cooley Dickinson Health Care, and the Northampton regional Veterans' Service Officer, among others. The project goal is to identify ways to improve transportation in the rural area, which has no major population center, no large employers, and few retail centers. Residents of the Hilltowns must travel to Northampton, Westfield, or Pittsfield to work, shop, and receive medical treatment; distances can exceed 25 miles each way.


The project has been loosely broken into phases. This grant covers phase one, in which the group will gather information, raise awareness about the need for transportation, and look at different models to find best practices for rural transportation services. In phase two, the group will pilot a project, which would then be replicated across the region in phase three.


"This project represents an important community development activity in the Hilltown region. Hilltown CDC advocates for a number of programs and services that are designed to improve rural life in Massachusetts. Adequate transportation options are an important part of strengthening a rural economy connecting people to home, work and community," explained Hilltown CDC Executive Director Dave Christopolis.


To learn more about this project, contact Dave Christopolis.

Boston hosts national travel instruction conference

Over 80 travel trainers came to Boston from as far away as Alaska and Florida for the annual Association of Travel Instruction national conference August 12-14. Attendees included travel trainers from transit authorities, human service agency staff, educators, and Orientation and Mobility Specialists. While some participants were new to travel training, others had over 30 years of experience in the field.


This year was Boston's first time hosting the conference, and many travel trainers and other local stakeholders played a role. The evening before the conference, Linda Shepard Salzer and Yasi Abdolmohammadi of Ways2Go offered a demonstration of the system orientation they provide at the MBTA's Emergency Training Center. On the morning the conference began, Laura Brelsford, Assistant General Manager for System-Wide Accessibility at the MBTA, welcomed participants, and Boston's Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities Kristen McCosh provided a keynote presentation. Meg Robertson, Director of the Orientation and Mobility Department for the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, presented on wayfinding and navigation for individuals with vision loss or cognitive disabilities. Innovative Paradigms  hosted a reception and gave tours of THE RIDE Eligibility Center (TREC). As the conference came to a close, MassMobility staff Rachel Fichtenbaum presented on the Massachusetts Travel Instruction Network as part of a panel on collaboration and regional networks.


A highlight of the conference was a panel organized by Ways2Go where trainees discussed why they enrolled in travel training and how it has changed their lives. One young woman learned to travel independently by commuter rail and subway from her home in Dedham to her culinary arts program at Bunker Hill Community College to pursue her dream of becoming a chef. A man who lost his vision after a long career of tree work shared how much it means to him to have regained his independence and to be able to visit his friends instead of always waiting for them to visit him.


Other presentations covered key topics such as safety, relating transit skills to Common Core Standards, medications, peer education for travel training, outreach and communications strategies, understanding parent reluctance, and more.

North Shore RCC implements falls prevention program to preserve senior mobility

Last summer, the North Shore RCC identified preventing falls in elderly populations as key to promoting mobility. The RCC created a subcommittee to devise a program that would accomplish two goals: 1) raise awareness about the need to prevent falls, and 2) assess the fall risk for individuals in the community.


With Greater Lynn Senior Services (GLSS) as the host organization, the group applied for a grant through the MassDOT Community Transit Grant Program and hired an outreach person and trainer to lead the implementation. The program has several components - assessing individual seniors for their level of fall risk through the Kiosks for Living Well, presentations both to local agencies and in a national webinar, and raising awareness through a campaign of leaving door hangers on doors at housing complexes in Salem, Lynn, and Gloucester, for a total of 323 individual units reached. They have also developed a home exercise program to improve balance when traveling in the community, which is available to anyone visiting the kiosks.


The falls prevention group will be evaluating the impact and effectiveness of the program through a combination of surveys and focus groups at the kiosks. For more information about this program, contact Sylvia Colovos.

MWRTA celebrates new hub

On July 17, Congresswoman Katherine Clark, State Senator Karen Spilka, and State Representative Tom Sannicandro joined MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA) staff, MassDOT officials, and others to celebrate the opening of MWRTA's new bus hub. Located at the former Boston Edison Building at 15 Blandin Avenue in Framingham, the hub will enable MWRTA to expand its fleet - and its capacity to serve the region.


Speakers highlighted the value that MWRTA has brought to the region since the transit authority formed nearly ten years ago. In the words of Senator Clark, "It connects businesses that want to expand to the talented and diverse workforce. It connects students to exceptional colleges like Framingham State University and Regis. It connects commuters to jobs and families to world-class hospitals and health care facilities."


MWRTA has already relocated their call center to the new facility and will continue transitioning over the coming year. The new hub will be fully operational in July 2016.

Bhutanese elders ride the bus in Worcester

The Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) partners with many local Councils on Aging (COAs), including a long-term collaboration with the Worcester Senior Center. Located on two bus routes, the Center provides bus passes and paratransit coupons to subsidize the cost for participants who travel to the Center via public transportation.


Earlier this year, Yung Phan, Coordinator of Multi-Cultural Programs and Senior Services at the Worcester Senior Center, approached WRTA Travel Trainer Tess Sebastian about working with the center's group for Bhutanese elders. In March, Sebastian went to the center and presented an overview of the WRTA system and the services that WRTA offers.


Participants were interested in trying out the bus, so in July, Sebastian, an interpreter, and six Bhutanese elders picked up the 1 bus at the Senior Center and rode it to the WRTA hub. After a tour of the hub - including an introduction to the hybrid, electric, and regular bus models - the group took the 80 bus on a loop around downtown Worcester. Back at the hub, they rode the 1 bus to return to the Senior Center.


The seniors enjoyed the activity and asked to learn how to ride the bus to a park, so Sebastian is working on finding a good park that is accessible by bus. In the meantime, the Worcester Senior Center has also asked her to present to their Vietnamese elders group.

MassDOT partners with RTAs to update GTFS data
In order to provide accurate and convenient travel information, MassDOT has partnered with ten Regional Transit Authorities, as well as ferries, to update the GTFS data that feeds into Google Transit and other scheduling apps. MassDOT will add intercity bus data in a future phase of the project. To learn more, visit the MassDOT blog.
Congress extends federal transportation funds temporarily
With the MAP-21 federal transportation funding legislation set to expire on July 31, the House passed a temporary funding measure to extend the legislation through October 31. The Senate passed the measure as well, and President Obama signed it. This legislation includes 5307, 5310, and 5311 funding streams that cover many community transportation projects. The House did not pass the DRIVE Act, a six-year transportation funding bill passed by the Senate. For updates, visit the Community Transportation Association of America's MAP-21 reauthorization website.
Job opportunity for social worker in Brookline
The Town of Brookline Senior Center is seeking a skilled clinical social worker to direct and develop a new program assisting elderly residents of Brookline and Newton with transportation options. Learn more.
Coming up in September

The Kennedy Center returns to Massachusetts to present another workshop on travel instruction. Scheduled for September 16-18 in Fitchburg, this workshop is funded by MassDOT and sponsored by the North Central RCC. Space is limited, so register today or contact us with questions.


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

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