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Welcome to the December 2016 issue of MassMobility, covering news about community transportation, human service transportation coordination, and mobility management in Massachusetts.

Read on to learn about a volunteer driver program that seeks to build connections among farmworkers in the Pioneer Valley, a Council on Aging that is using an electric car to increase mobility and access for seniors, new interest in vehicle sharing in Franklin County, and more news from around Massachusetts. Be sure to check out the guest articles on travel training, last-mile transportation challenges, and scholarship opportunities.

This newsletter is compiled by MassMobility, a joint initiative of the 
Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services and MassDOT. Above, we have added the MassDOT Rail & Transit logo to the newsletter to emphasize the joint nature of the mobility management work between EOHHS and MassDOT and the close working relationship between MassMobility and our colleagues at MassDOT Rail & Transit.
Volunteer driver program brings farmworkers together across cultural and language barriers
Farmworkers are giving each other rides in the Pioneer Valley through an innovative volunteer driver program that developed out of a cross-cultural initiative. In its first year, the Pioneer Valley Amistad Rideshare (PVAR) provided approximately 40 rides to farmworkers who do not have access to a car, or do not have a driver's license.
When a group of local food enthusiasts and people with farming experience formed a social justice reading and discussion group, they agreed that they wanted to foster cross-cultural relationships between English-speaking and Spanish-speaking farmworkers. The Agrarian Action Network, as they began to call themselves, identified transportation as an opportunity to bring different communities of farmworkers together, and formed the Pioneer Valley Amistad Rideshare (PVAR).
Just as PVAR was forming, Abby Graseck attended a meeting of the Agrarian Action Network. As Parent and Family Services Coordinator at the Brick House Community Resource Center in Turners Falls, Graseck works with immigrant farmworker families, including many who lack access to transportation. Together, Graseck and network members sketched out a plan for an informal program, where the Agrarian Action Network would create an email list of people willing to offer rides, and Graseck would email ride requests from her clients to the list.  PVAR has now been operating for over a year. "It makes a big difference," Graseck says of the program. Most of the rides provided are long-distance trips from Franklin County to Springfield or Hartford.

In hopes of fulfilling even more ride requests, PVAR is looking to recruit new volunteers who live closer to Turners Fall for shorter-distance trips, as well as volunteers who are available to give rides in the summertime, when many of the current volunteers are working long hours on farms. "We are working to continue to grow creative, grassroots efforts to build relationships and meet the transportation needs in our community, and we hope to more effectively meet the transportation needs of farmworkers and others in the future," says Graseck. They are well on their way: in the last month, many new volunteers have joined the list.
Barnstable COA enhances senior mobility in an environmentally-friendly way
When the Barnstable Council on Aging (COA) heard that the town had leased electric vehicles for municipal use, they saw an opportunity. Describing increasing demand for senior transportation, they were able to get a Nissan Leaf for the senior center, with the cost of the lease paid by the Friends of the Barnstable COA. Since its arrival in June 2015, the "Silver Leaf" has been met with enthusiasm by passengers, drivers, and the community at large, reports Assistant Director Donna-Marie Burns.
The Senior Center already had one 10-passenger, wheelchair-accessible  van and a paid driver and used volunteer drivers when the paid driver was unavailable. However, many volunteers were hesitant to drive the van due to its size. Once the Leaf was available, volunteers became much more willing to drive. The Leaf is also a cost-saver for the Senior Center, since fuel expenses are much lower.
Barnstable installed an electric vehicle charging station at the Senior Center for the Silver Leaf, and the station is also available for public use. The charging station is powered by a large solar array, which also powers the Senior Center.
"There's really no downside," Burns says of the electric vehicle. "It's such a nice complement to the transportation services we already have. Everyone notices the car around town, seniors are very excited to ride in it, and it's a cost-saver. Plus, knowing that we're doing our part to take care of the environment makes us all feel great."
Greenfield forum fosters interest in vehicle share
Residents of Franklin County gathered on November 19 to discuss two key issues for the region: transportation and food. Greening Greenfield , a community group working to build a sustainable city, hosted " Innovations for Rural Living: Finding Solutions to our Food and Transit Challenges " at Greenfield Community College.
The keynote speaker for transportation was Matt George, Founder and CEO of Bridj, who presented on Bridj's partnership with the transit authority in Kansas City. Unionized drivers from the transit authority use Bridj's technology to provide a smartphone-based microtransit service. Rides are shared, and riders are picked up and dropped off within a few blocks of their points of origin and final destination.
In the afternoon, participants broke out into small groups. Staff from the Franklin Regional Transit Authority (FRTA) and Franklin Regional Council on Governments (FRCOG) facilitated a discussion on local transportation for seniors. Michael Perrault of FRTA explained how Council on Aging (COA) transportation currently works in the region. Participants were interested in opportunities to increase usage of COA vehicles, such as by exploring opportunities for other organizations to use the vehicles when the COA transportation service is not operating. For next steps, FRTA and FRCOG agreed to inventory COA vehicles and their current schedules. FRCOG was already working with a group of social service agencies to identify times when they need transportation, and will compare this information against the inventory of when vehicles are currently sitting idle.
Last-mile commuter shuttle pilot sees high ridership
MassMobility  thanks Andrew Scribner-MacLean, Assistant Town Administrator for Maynard,  for submitting this guest article. If  you would like to submit an article or have an idea for a topic,  please contact us.

CrossTown Connect (CTC), a transportation management association of five towns and nine businesses, began a "last mile" commuter shuttle pilot in October. The shuttle is connecting commuters to and from the South Acton commuter rail station and homes and businesses in Acton and Maynard.
After just nine weeks, the pilot has proven to be very popular with ridership increasing each week. CTC hopes to continue the shuttle beyond the pilot period that expires in January. The program is a natural addition to CTC's current services that include dispatching senior van services and point-to-point shuttles. 
This fixed route program is leveraging the addition of the second rail on the Fitchburg MBTA commuter rail line that has added capacity for both inbound and outbound commuters. South Acton Station has limited parking, so shuttles help both the commuter rail and the commuters. Local employers are benefiting as well. Several companies have employees coming from greater Boston who now have the ability to get from the station to Acton and Maynard locations without having to walk.
Responding to survey data gleaned from businesses and residents, the shuttle was originally planned for a summer 2016 launch. State revenue concerns have held up the initial funding. Maynard and Acton have allocated a small sum to fund a 16-week pilot to verify the survey and anecdotal evidence that there is demand for this service in the region. CTC hopes to increase the shuttle availability by adding two other routes serving commuters and businesses in Boxborough, Littleton, and Westford.
The shuttles are running for about three and a half hours each morning and evening coinciding with the peak commuter demand.  Except for the Thanksgiving holiday, weekly ridership has increased every week, growing from 26 the first week to 83 by the end of November. Even Thanksgiving week's daily ridership numbers were showing an increase over the previous week.
Ride Match usage increases
When the new Ride Match website went live last month, usage increased 20 percent. Ride Match is an online, searchable database to help people find public and private transportation options from their town of origin to their destination. Targeted to seniors and people with disabilities, the tool makes it easy to search for services that can provide accommodations, such as a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. Originally developed by the Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority, Ride Match is going statewide, thanks to a grant from MassDOT.

Have you used Ride Match to find a ride for yourself or a consumer? Have you helped get the word out about Ride Match? We want to hear your stories. Email them to us, or tweet them to @MassMobility with #RideMatch.
MWRTA pilots new shuttle in Hudson
The MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA) is piloting a new shuttle in Hudson . Local legislators found funding to pilot the service, which launched October 31 and runs through June 30. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for December 16 at the Hudson Senior Center.
The shuttle serves the Hudson Senior Center and other key destinations in Hudson, and then travels to the Marlborough Senior Center, where riders can connect with MWRTA routes to destinations throughout the entire MWRTA system. The new route has already proven popular among local seniors, who use it to access shopping centers and other destinations in both Hudson and Marlborough.
Due to limited funding, the shuttle currently only runs once every other hour, though MWRTA is in the process of fine-tuning the schedule. In between runs, the driver switches the vehicle from fixed-route to paratransit usage and makes local demand-response trips. This creative approach helps offset the cost of the shuttle, while simultaneously helping improve mobility for seniors and people with disabilities in Marlborough.

MWRTA Administrator Ed Carr is working with state and local partners to identify funding to sustain the service beyond June 30.
Travel training helps Pittsfield senior become "free as a bird"
MassMobility  thanks Rita A. DeFino of Pittsfield  for submitting this guest article.

Once in a while during our lifetime we become acquainted with someone who makes a strong impact upon our life, and possibly in some way contributes to saving our life - and this is what happened when I met Julie Davine.
I live in Pittsfield and last July 2015 sometime during the early morning hours while I was sleeping in my home I suffered a severe, life-changing stroke, and was found down on my kitchen floor about 30 hours later. After weeks of touch and go recovery and rehabilitation I was discharged back to my home with enough residual deficits to prohibit driving my brand new beautiful car for the rest of my life. I had always been a completely independent person, managing my affairs and able to go wherever my car would take me. Life was very good...until the day I had the stroke and had to turn in my car and was told I could no longer drive. I was 80 years old at that time.
The very next day, panic set in. I was trapped. No car. No transportation. Taxicabs were expensive. I saw buses every day and was on the bus line. I could take a bus! But what bus? How could I get to the grocery, the bank, the hairdresser, lunch with the girls? Blubbering and in tears and on the brink of hysteria, I called the BRTA and said "I don't know how to take the bus." They said they would call me right back, and two minutes later my phone rang and I heard a woman's voice say, "Rita, will you be home at 10 this morning?" And here the story of Julie Davine begins.
Julie came to my home at 10 that day, and my virtual hysteria went away immediately. I found Julie to be a very bright, enthusiastic person whose very manner said: "It's going to be all right." After talking with her for five minutes, I knew help was at hand.
At that first meeting she explained she was a travel trainer and that she was going to teach me how to ride buses and how to ask for transfers. In short, I never had to feel I was stranded and vegetating in my home, for I was going to learn how to get to where I needed to go on the bus. She explained she would be with me every step of the way until I felt safe enough to get to my destination and return on my own. At first I was concerned, but her confident manner and exuberance were so positive that I started to feel positive, too.
Over a short period of time I became acquainted with all of the buses I needed to take to carry on my life. Locally I have been to Hillcrest Hospital and back for physical therapy, to Walmart, to the Berkshire Mall, Lenox Family Health in Lenox, to the Berkshire Medical Center, to the supermarket, and to my weekly hairstyling appointment. I'm aware of how I can visit the Lee Shops, and even have a future trip planned to Great Barrington for a day of lunch and shopping with several friends. In brief: I'm free as a bird!!!
I'm without a car and the attendant expenses and complications involved with driving. Life is good. Julie Davine has been the best positive force in my life and has given me the confidence to carry on with an independent and safe life.
Travel trainers convene for professional development
The Kennedy Center debuted a workshop targeted to intermediate-level travel trainers November 15-16 in Worcester. Created based on feedback from travel trainers and participants in the popular introductory workshop, the intermediate workshop included many exercises in the field and hands-on projects. Participants rode Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) buses, practiced navigating downtown Worcester, and developed social stories. The workshop was funded by MassDOT, and WRTA provided bus passes and an out-of-service bus.
On December 5, travel trainers gathered in Fitchburg at a Massachusetts Travel Instruction Network meeting to discuss how technology can support travel instruction. Innovative Paradigms, the new company managing the MBTA's travel training program, presented on the database they developed to help travel trainers track their time and document trainees' progress in the field. Their system was developed for iPads, so travel trainers can complete their paperwork and forms directly in the field instead of having to spend time typing up handwritten notes. David Pearson, Program Manager of MBTA Travel Training program, shared apps he uses with trainees, including Boston's 311 app to report problems with sidewalks or other city infrastructure. Teri Koopman, Pioneer Valley Transit Authority Travel Trainer, shared the technology she uses with trainees, such as having trainees take photos of key documents with their phones so they do not have to worry about losing the documents. The group agreed that while technology can be useful, it frequently does not work, and it is important to have a backup plan.

For more information about professional development opportunities for travel trainers in Massachusetts, please contact us.
What would you like to see at this year's conference?
We are looking ahead to the 2017 Massachusetts Community Transportation Coordination Conference, tentatively scheduled for early May. Please share your suggestions for topics and presenters you would like us to consider for the 2017 conference agenda.

This conference is an opportunity for human service agency staff, transportation providers, advocates, planners, consumers, and others interested in community transportation to connect with each other and hear about innovative and effective approaches to improving mobility. Check out conference materials from 2016 and 2015.
Think transportation for your holiday giving and donations
Having trouble finding the right present for a friend or family member? Consider giving the gift of transportation. HST Director  Sharna Small-Borsellino will again include a transportation gift in her mother's stocking. Last year, her mother retired from driving, and Small-Borsellino and her siblings deposited funds into her RIDE account. "My mother enjoys taking the RIDE to church every Sunday, out to lunch with friends and to her medical appointments. Our Mom can still live independently and uses the RIDE for safe and reliable transportation. The drivers are always friendly and offer her the added assistance that she needs to maintain her active social life," explains Small-Borsellino.  Ask your local transportation provider if they sell gift certificates or fare vouchers. Some transportation providers offer discounts that can make your gift go even further.

If the spirit of holiday giving or the allure of a tax break is tempting you to donate your car, consider an organization that repurposes donated cars for low-income people and people with disabilities who need transportation to employment. For people who can drive but cannot afford a car, these programs can provide the missing link to self-sufficiency.  Mass Mobility  subscriber Sarah Langer donated her car in 2014. "I chose Good News Garage because instead of just selling the car, they will actually give it to someone who can use it," she explains.
Scholarships available for national training opportunities

The MArtap Scholarship Program was created to ensure that transportation agencies in rural and small urban communities have access to training and technical assistance opportunities. We would like to encourage you to consider existing training, accreditation, and certification opportunities provided by The Community Transportation Association of America  and the National Center for Mobility Management . If one of these programs is right for you, MArtap can provide financial support through a scholarship. You can apply for MArtap scholarships online  or by emailing us .
Job posting
Innovative Paradigms is hiring a full-time travel trainer for the MBTA system.
Coming up in January
Applicants interested in a Tufts Health Plan Foundation grant in the  Systems and Best Practices focus area should submit a letter of inquiry by January 20.

Organizations or individuals interested in presenting at the National Rural Transit Assistance Program's 2017 conference should submit presentation proposals by January 30.

Find additional upcoming events on 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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