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This June 2018 edition of MassMobility  highlights new efforts underway to improve mobility for older adults, people with disabilities, low-income individuals, and others in Massachusetts.

You'll read about how  m unicipalities and transit authorities are partnering to improve mobility, launching new services in Hopedale and Littleton. You'll also hear from  o rganizations in Framingham, Worcester, and the Berkshires about how they are  helping low-income individuals overcome transportation barriers to get to work. In addition, transportation providers from the Cape and Lexington share their strategies for recruiting more school-age riders, a Brookline-based senior transportation initiative heads west, and the MBTA enhances an app for blind riders.

This newsletter is compiled by  MassMobility , an initiative of the 
Hopedale joins MWRTA
In May, a new van for seniors began operating in Hopedale, thanks to a partnership between the Hopedale Council on Aging (COA) and the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA). For years, COA Director Carole Mullen approached transportation creatively, partnering first with the town's school bus department and later with the neighboring town of Milford. As the cost to rent school buses rose beyond her budget, Mullen looked for new solutions. When the COA outreach worker met Carl Damigella, MWRTA's Director of Community Relations and Outreach, Damigella offered one such opportunity: Hopedale could join MWRTA, and then MWRTA would provide Hopedale a van and dispatching services. Mullen and town partners worked with MWRTA for about nine months to hammer out the details. They received their van in early May.
To use the service, riders first register with the COA. COA staff assess riders to ensure they can use the service independently - or help them find an escort if they need assistance. Once registered, riders call MWRTA to request trips. MWRTA accepts and processes the fares, but returns the funds to the COA. Riders can request local trips within the Blackstone Valley, though Mullen hopes to be able to expand the program to offer long-distance trips in the future. Currently, Hopedale has funding to operate the van 17 hours per week.
To help riders transition and enroll additional riders, the COA's Senior Outreach Worker has publicized the service during home visits, and active riders have signed up to serve as ambassadors and recruit peers to try the van. In addition to the MWRTA van, Hopedale has maintained its partnership with Milford for medical trips.
For more information on the centralized dispatching service that MWRTA offers to member COAs, check out our COA transportation coordination report or attend the Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging June 19 membership meeting.
Littleton-Westford shuttle launches 
Montachusett Regional Transit Authority (MART) and Transportation Management Association CrossTown Connect's newest transportation service launched on Monday, June 4: the Littleton-Westford Commuter Rail Shuttle. The shuttle connects the Littleton Commuter Rail station with IBM/Littleton Common, as well as businesses in Westford's Technology Parks East and West.
The shuttle runs multiple fixed route loops during morning and evening commuting times Monday through Friday, allowing employees to access these locations from the Littleton commuter rail station via public transportation. Residents and commuters going to Littleton Station are able to board at various stops, including at dedicated park-and-ride spaces located at Juniper Networks, or by flagging down the bus along Route 110.
"We are pleased that residents of the state will have these additional transportation options to get to where they need to go," says Massachusetts Rail and Transit Administrator Astrid Glynn.  "We would like to thank the towns for working collaboratively with the private sector and community members for making this service possible."
MBTA enhances BlindWays app
The MBTA has enhanced the BlindWays app that helps blind riders locate bus stops. Developed by the Perkins School for the Blind and Raizlabs with funding from a Google Impact grant, BlindWays seeks to complement GPS by helping riders navigate the last 30 feet to the exact location of the bus stop. BlindWays originally launched in 2016 using crowdsourced data to give riders clues to help them find the bus stop. In 2017, the MBTA outfitted bus stops along routes 70 and 71 with beacons that can communicate directly with the app via Bluetooth. The MBTA has also transferred data collected through the Plan for Accessible Transit Infrastructure (PATI) initiative into the app, to supplement the crowdsourced descriptions.
The MBTA opted to begin with a limited launch on just a few routes to test the technology and develop a procedure for keeping information updated and reliable. Once the app is successful, the MBTA hopes to expand it to other routes across the system.
TRIPPS pilots expansion of senior transportation program
TRIPPS , a Brookline-based program that helps seniors find and use alternatives to driving, has expanded its reach to include Northampton and Williamstown. Last year, TRIPPS developed a draft toolkit to guide Councils on Aging in promoting the mobility of older adults. The toolkit starts with a needs assessment and then offers steps communities can take in order to address senior transportation issues in their town. TRIPPS designed the toolkit to allow for flexibility and choice: while one community might utilize the toolkit to figure out the best possible use for a new van, another community might use it to design transportation education programs for older adults. 
Jennifer Carbery, Transportation Coordinator at Northampton Senior Services, shares her reasons for joining as a pilot community: "TRIPPS has done a lot for senior transportation in the eastern part of the state, and we're looking at ways to similarly improve transportation in the western part. The first step is an inventory of existing transportation services, which we are in the process of. With a booklet of transportation resources for older adults,  there's a good chance that residents won't feel so defeated and will find ways to stay mobile and in the community. This will also help us to find gaps in services for seniors, and the hope is that we will be able to partner with local resources to fill these gaps. It's great to have somebody with experience to fall back on with any questions as we work our way through the process."
TRIPPS plans to make the toolkit available to all communities at the end of 2018. Recognizing that not all communities are like Brookline, Kerri Ann Tester, Program Director at TRIPPS, explains that the "goal of the pilot is to have rural communities share their feedback about the toolkit to provide a useful, final product for all towns around the state."
Cape Cod and Lexington launch youth transportation initiatives
Cape Cod and Lexington are targeting younger individuals with new initiatives aimed at increasing ridership among school-aged youth.

In preparation for the onslaught of young people needing to travel around the Cape during the summer, the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA) launched a program aimed at increasing transit ridership among youth. The program follows a senior transportation initiative that began in 2017 designed to build ridership among older adults. "Young people can benefit from transit in the same way," says Mobility Manager Kristen Boyd, "whether it's to travel for employment, education, or social engagements." 
CCRTA kicked off the initiative at a Barnstable High School environmental-focused field day. CCRTA staff hosted a jeopardy-style game with a transit theme, engaging students as they used the bus schedule to answer questions in hopes of winning a prize. CCRTA also stationed a bus outside of the school to demonstrate how to pay a fare, as well as tie in the theme of the day by sharing the green features of the bus and positive environmental impacts of taking public transit. Boyd says, "It familiarized students with CCRTA's services and started a conversation about the bus among the students, which is what we were hoping for."
CCRTA wants to bring a similar event to schools across the Cape. Consumer Affairs Manager Kathy Jensen is using social media to market CCRTA's services to youth and keep them informed of any promotions available. Discounted fares of $1.50 are available to Barnstable County students through the Charlie Card student fare pass program. CCRTA Administrator Thomas Cahir shares, "We're making an effort to increase the percentage of young people who feel comfortable taking transit. We're letting them know that it is safe, affordable, and accessible."
About 85 miles to the north, the Town of Lexington hosts Bike, Walk, 'n Bus Week each May to promote alternative transportation options through guided bike rides, walks, and more. This year, Lexpress, the town's fixed-route bus service, held multiple events targeting youth in an effort to increase awareness of the service and build ridership. These events included a "Middle School Learn Lexpress Event" and "Lexpress Open House."
The idea stemmed from the Lexington Transportation Advisory Committee's desire to find ways to increase student ridership on the Lexpress. Ridership is comprised mostly of students and older adults, but youth ridership has been declining. To combat this, the group collaborated with Lexington Public Schools to offer a flex pass to students who register for the school bus - a $50 annual add-on to the fee paid by students for school bus transportation. The flex pass allows unlimited rides after 3:10pm as an alternate transportation option for students to travel to activities after school.
The "Middle School Learn Lexpress Event" brought middle school students from school to the community center at the end of the day on a Lexpress bus, along the way discussing how the flag system works, how to pay, and how to track where the bus is using a phone application or the computer. It was an "opportunity to both familiarize students with the services and educate about the differences between a public bus and a school bus," says Lexington's Transportation Manager Susan Barrett.
The "Lexpress Open House" was held in conjunction with the "Lexington Public Schools Bus Open House" and featured both a school bus and a Lexpress bus parked at Lexington High School. It was an opportunity to again expose families and students to the service and answer any questions they might have. The event was popular, with 36 people showing up in just one hour. Barrett shares, "the kids were excited, and families had a chance to see all of the places they could travel on the bus." Barrett hopes to do more events in the future to inform families and students how Lexpress can help them get around town. 
Workforce development programs address transportation and childcare barriers
In April, the Worcester Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) Office launched a new pilot transportation program to help consumers access jobs and educational opportunities. Through a partnership with Ascentria Care Alliance's  Good News Garage , eligible consumers who are receiving cash assistance can request rides within the Worcester area. On the way to or from the job-related destination, riders may stop at a childcare facility to drop off or pick up a child; car seats are provided. The program is funded through the end of June by a line item in the DTA budget.
Worcester based this pilot on a similar program operated by the South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) in partnership with the Framingham DTA Office. SMOC originally launched the program in 2015 to address consumers' top two barriers to getting and keeping a job: transportation and childcare. Many consumers who had to drop children off at childcare on the way to work had trouble using public transit because of scheduling. Even if they took the first bus in the morning, long wait times to get back on the bus after dropping their children off could lead them to be late to work. On the way home, they might not make it to daycare on time, risking losing their child's spot. To address these challenges, SMOC partnered with the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA). MWRTA leased SMOC two buses, provided driver training, and offered maintenance for the buses. SMOC worked with State Senator Karen Spilka to secure funding for the program. Reflecting on the three years the program has been in operation, Mark Knowlton, Director of Employment Programs at SMOC, notes that "countless people have secured and maintained jobs because of this transportation that they didn't have before." A recent participant used the transportation service to access a three-week CNA training program and now, thanks to that training, has a full-time job with a living wage.
To further achieve workforce development goals, SMOC has also integrated job development opportunities into program administration. They recruit bus drivers from their consumers, including participants in a homelessness transition program. Drivers receive training from MWRTA, experience driving for SMOC, and access to a CDL training program. A number of drivers have gone on to secure jobs with MWRTA, other transit authorities, or other transportation providers. SMOC also recruits consumers to serve as program administrator of the transportation initiative, taking and returning calls and scheduling rides, for experience in administration positions. "Hiring people who can use the experience as a stepping stone to better employment was a very important piece for us to integrate into our transportation service," Knowlton emphasizes.
Berkshire agency offers low-income drivers a path to car ownership
In an effort to fill transportation gaps in Berkshire County, the Berkshire Community Action Council (BCAC) is providing eligible residents with a path to car ownership through the Community Action Rides (CARS) program. CARS is part of BCAC's asset development work and is designed to provide low interest car loans and financial literacy skills to participants.
CARS grew out of BCAC's commitment to assist low-income individuals in Berkshire County with achieving self-sufficiency, as well as its prior efforts to support transportation through the BerkshireRides initiative. Bryan House, Deputy Director at BCAC, explains that "because of its layout and rural nature, Berkshire County has issues with access to affordable and reliable transportation, especially to and from employment. And BCAC is helping to create some different types of clear, reliable transportation options in county."
The CARS Program began in 2016. In partnership with Greylock Federal Credit Union and a local car dealership, BCAC underwrites the loan to secure an affordable rate for a vehicle at the dealership that falls within the price range of $8,000 to $10,000. The average length of the loan is five or six years. CARS goes beyond simply securing transportation, engaging participants in financial literacy coaching to gain the skills needed to successfully budget, increase their credit score, and work with financial institutions. BCAC also provides participants with ongoing access to certified financial coaches throughout the course of the loan.
BCAC asks participants to "pay it forward" by providing rides to individuals in their community in order to strengthen the neighborhood transportation safety net. House shares that a strong sense of community is part of what makes this program successful.
Neponset Valley Region creates Suburban Mobility Working Group
One of the outcomes of the Bridging Transportation Gaps in Neponset Valley Forum led by the Neponset Valley Transportation Management Association (TMA) in March was the establishment of a Suburban Mobility Working Group. The new working group launched on May 30, with about 25 individuals representing municipalities, social service agencies, Councils on Aging, the business community, and regional transportation service providers gathering at Foxborough Town Hall to continue the discussion about mobility gaps and unmet needs in the region. The discussion touched upon innovative commuting options, the Foxborough commuter rail pilot, stakeholder advocacy, public relations with riders, affordability of service for low-income populations, collaboration and resource sharing among stakeholders, multimodal solutions, and more. Attendees also outlined essential elements of a mission statement for the working group. Subsequent meetings will determine priority projects for economic development and social inclusion. Visit the group's webpage to learn more or sign up.
Community transportation providers present at Transportation Leadership Academy
The 2017-2018 Transportation Leadership Academy concluded in May. Hosted by Transportation for Massachusetts in partnership with Transportation for America  and the Massachusetts Association of Regional Planning Agencies and with support from the Barr Foundation , the Academy convened staff of Regional Planning Agencies, Regional Transit Authorities, local government, and advocacy organizations from all regions of Massachusetts to learn about performance measurement. Through five in-person meetings and three additional webinars, participants heard from experts from across the country on strategies for incorporating a wide range of performance measures into projects, as well as case studies on how different regions have incorporated performance measurement into their work.
To highlight rural mobility challenges, Transportation for Massachusetts invited SCM Elderbus and the Hilltown Community Development Corporation (CDC) to present as part of the February meeting. Tim O'Day, Executive Director of SCM Elderbus, discussed the development and implementation of READYBUS, which uses extra capacity in a service for seniors and people with disabilities to serve others who need employment transportation in four towns in Central Massachusetts. Dave Christopolis, Executive Director of the Hilltown CDC, presented on a survey conducted to assess what seniors in his region needed and wanted in terms of mobility options. When the Hilltown CDC later assumed operation of the local senior van and launched the Hilltown Easy Ride, they used the survey data to inform the design.
Transportation for Massachusetts hopes to offer the Academy again in a future year.
National report on synergy between mobility management and complete streets highlights North Central Massachusetts
A new report from the National Center for Mobility Management discusses the similarities and synergy between mobility management and complete streets. The second half of the report features interviews with stakeholders from North Central Massachusetts about how they are integrating mobility management efforts with complete streets initiatives locally, based on a webinar from February.
Tufts announces new grant opportunity

Tufts Health Plan Foundation has announced a new grant opportunity - the Momentum Fund - for early-stage, community-led projects seeking to foster innovation and collaboration to make communities livable for all ages and generations. Applications are due September 20.

Applicants seeking to apply to Tufts' annual Policy and Advocacy Fund should submit letters of intent by July 20.
Help the Commonwealth plan for the future of transportation
The newly-formed Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth is investigating how anticipated changes in technology, climate, land use, and the economy will impact transportation from 2020 through 2040. Join them at an upcoming listening session to share your views on future needs and challenges.
Mobility management internship
College students, graduate students, and recent graduates interested in mobility management are invited to apply for a Mobility Management Connections Internship Opportunity. This paid internship is 5 hours per week through the end of December.
Are you a mobility manager?
A mobility manager is someone who
  • Helps older adults, people with disabilities, low-income individuals, and others learn about and choose transportation options that will help them get where they need to go, and/or
  • Works to coordinate different transportation services to improve mobility and/or efficiency
The AARP is creating a national inventory of mobility managers because they recognize that mobility management helps older adults live well in their communities. If your job includes some mobility management - or something related - let us know and we will put AARP in touch with you to follow up.
Who is MassMobility?
For those of you who only know us through the newsletter,  MassMobility is a state initiative based at EOHHS which also receives funding from MassDOT. We seek to improve mobility for seniors, people with disabilities, and others in all regions of Massachusetts by sharing information about existing services and supporting organizations in their efforts to fill transportation gaps.  We provide presentations to human service agency staff to help them learn how to help consumers find transportation, and we also provide technical assistance to any organization looking to address transportation challenges. We welcome you to contact us any time if you have a question or idea for a project that would improve mobility for seniors or people with disabilities.
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