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Welcome to the May 2020 issue of the MassMobility newsletter.  This month's issue highlights creative ways communities and organizations are adapting to changing times. Read on to learn about how transit authorities, Transportation Management Associations, Councils on Aging, and communities are rising to the occasion to deliver essential trips safely - as well as  more  news related to transportation for  older adults, people with disabilities, and low-income individuals in Massachusetts .

We want to thank all our readers who are on the front lines helping older adults, people with disabilities, and essential workers. We also wish to send a special thank you to all drivers who continue to transport people to essential trips.

If you are taking an essential trip, remember to wear a mask so that you can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and comply with the Governor's Order . Children under age two should not wear a mask. DPH has also noted exceptions for extenuating circumstances, such as people who have trouble breathing, have a behavioral health diagnosis that makes them unable to wear a mask, or are communicating with someone who needs to read lips. Details - as well as tips, videos, and fact sheets in a range of languages - are available online from DPH .

The newsletter is compiled by  MassMobility , an initiative of the  Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services .
Apply for a grant
MAPC and MassDevelopment are offering emergency grants to state and municipal agencies, Regional Transit Authorities, and health and human service transportation providers for  paying taxi, livery, or hackney companies to do essential COVID-19 trips or delivery. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis through June 12.

MassDOT's annual Community Transit Grant Program opened May 8, with applications due June 26. Councils on Aging, non-profits, transit authorities, municipalities, and some taxis can apply for funding for vehicles, mobility management projects, or operating expenses to expand mobility for older adults and people with disabilities. New applicants should  contact Jenna Henning before applying.

Another annual MassDOT grant opened May 15. Helping Hand Mini Grants offer up to $500 to Councils on Aging, Regional Transit Authorities, or non-profit transportation providers in rural and small urban areas. Apply by June 15.

The national Community Mobility Design Challenge 2020 offers planning grants to cross-sector teams coming together to brainstorm how to address community transportation barriers. Applications are due July 6.

Check out our funding webpage for additional opportunities. Putting together an application? Check out our resources on data for making the case, best practices to implement, and strategies for partnering with others.
Temporary bus route helps Framingham residents access essential grocery trips
On April 22, the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA)'s new Route 4 Grocery took its inaugural run from downtown Framingham to Market Basket, Roche Brothers, and Wegmans. "Due to COVID-19, we've had to dial back some of our service, but we wanted to make sure riders could keep up their social distancing and avoid crowding on the bus, while still getting to essential grocery shopping trips," explains Emily VanDewoestine, MWRTA Fixed Route Operations Manager. "This route gives residents of downtown Framingham direct access to grocery stores - a straight shot." MWRTA hopes the route will not only be more convenient for riders, but also safer since it reduces travel time and crowding. MWRTA reminds all riders to travel for essential trips only and to wear masks that cover the nose and mouth while onboard.
Virtual classes prepare students for future travel training
Transportation and travel training are an important part of the regular curriculum in Westfield, and Transition Specialist Sherry Elander was not going to let COVID-19 change that. Elander reached out to Renee Lessard, the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) travel trainer, about leading online classes. Lessard jumped at the chance and began adapting A Chance to Ride , a curriculum developed for transition classes by the Kennedy Center.
Lessard joins two of Elander's Zoom classes, each for 30 minutes a week, to teach pre-travel life skills such as knowing whom to call if something goes wrong and how to keep personal information private on the bus. Eventually, she plans to add PVTA-specific information into the classes.
Other educators in the PVTA service area can subscribe to Lessard's new PVTA travel training newsletter to learn about opportunities to bring Lessard to your online classroom. Educators in other regions may be interested in the following resources:
Temporary RIDE changes expand mobility for personal care attendants
Personal care attendants (PCAs) have always been allowed to accompany RIDE customers on trips, but a temporary rule change effective April 24 now allows PCAs to ride alone in order to get to or from the home of a RIDE customer. "This change will allow the MBTA to maintain a vital link between RIDE customers and their PCAs," said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak.
The change came about through conversations between THE RIDE and the RIDE Subcommittee of the Riders' Transportation Access Group (R-TAG). R-TAG is the MBTA's officially recognized customer organization that provides input on issues affecting people with disabilities and older adults who use the T.  Subcommittee members suggested the idea and collaborated with THE RIDE staff to work out the details.
PCA trips must be booked by the RIDE customer, and paid out of the RIDE customer's account (PCAs can deposit funds into customers' accounts). For up-to-date information on MBTA service changes to THE RIDE and other modes, visit
TMA works with epidemiologist to research and develop new safety protocols
On May 12, 128 Business Council (128BC) published comprehensive protocols detailing how they will safeguard rider and driver safety when they resume operating their public shuttles, which connect office parks, large employers, housing developments, and community locations in the Waltham and Lexington area to Alewife Station, Waltham Center, and Newton Highlands. The new protocols address a wide range of procedures, including cleaning the vehicles, assessing driver health, carefully controlling movement in boarding areas , and reducing contact between passengers while boarding, riding, and alighting.
The work began in mid-March, when 128BC suspended shuttle operations. Realizing that changes would not be fleeting and would require a whole new model of service, they contracted with an epidemiologist who normally works in hospital safety. Together, they identified goals and standards, and then worked to develop their new protocols.
"We wanted to do the best we could do, not just be good enough," explains Lispeth Tibbits-Nutt, Manager of Communications, Research, and Education at 128BC. They scoured CDC-approved information on cleaning products to see how long a particular agent needs to sit on a surface in order for the disinfection process to occur. They called manufacturers of UVC disinfection units around the country to find one that could be easily carried through a bus, as these are typically used in hospital rooms where they do not need to be portable. Using their own staff, they tested different approaches to boarding the vehicles to find the one that minimized rider contact and optimized rider compliance. They are rolling out driver training on how to safely and effectively put on and remove masks and gloves, as well as a communications strategy to share key information with riders.
128BC not only believes their work will keep their own riders and drivers safe, but also hopes it will be helpful to other transportation providers. In addition to the list of protocols, 128BC is happy to share their internal documentation and to answer questions or provide additional detail. "Our specific protocols might not be the answer for you, but we can talk about how all the research and principles underlying our protocols can create protocols specific to your organization, " offers Tibbits-Nutt. Transportation providers interested in more extensive help from 128BC to customize their own protocols can also inquire about setting up a longer-term consulting relationship with the nonprofit.
Brookline receives second national grant of Lyft vouchers
Thanks to a national grant , the Brookline Council on Aging is able to offer caregivers and older adults Lyft vouchers to make essential trips. Last November , Brookline's TRIPPS program received its first national grant from Lyft and the National Council on Aging (NCOA), and in March, NCOA contacted them to see if they would be interested in additional vouchers to help caregivers take critical trips related to caring for older adults during COVID-19. Initial interest was low, as many were staying home and Brookline had a strong mutual aid network that was already providing support, but over time usage has grown. The vouchers have provided home health aides an alternative to public transit. Vouchers have also been popular among older adults who can walk to the grocery store, but who are trying to reduce the number of trips they make, and so prefer to take a Lyft home so they can buy more groceries than they could carry. The grant expires at the end of June.
Southern Berkshire community steps up to fill transportation gaps
When the local transportation provider in Southern Berkshire County closed due to COVID-19 concerns, older adults in Egremont were left without a way to make their essential trips. As a short-term measure, the neighboring town of Sheffield offered use of their van. Egremont - a small town of population 1200 - put out a call for volunteers, and 33 community members stepped up. "This is community in action," says Bruce Bernstein, Chair of the Egremont Council on Aging Board. "Almost all of the homes owned by part-time residents are now occupied, so our town is full. Many of those who volunteered are second home owners, younger than our general population. I was very gratified that they answered the call."
MBTA seeks input on future of travel instruction
The MBTA is seeking input from travel instruction practitioners and experts about how travel instruction , which has traditionally relied on in-person face-to-face contact with customers, is likely to pivot in its delivery model to adapt to continued social distancing and other safety requirements. The information collected will influence the development of the MBTA's next travel training contract.
For more information or to respond, search for BD-20-1206-40000-42502-51559 on COMMBUYS. The title of the Request for Information (RFI) is Innovation in Travel Training Service Delivery Post COVID-19. Due to an error, the title may appear to ask about innovation in paratransit service, but the MBTA is looking for information about travel instruction, not paratransit.
Help design accessible autonomous vehicles
The federal Department of Transportation is sponsoring an inclusive design challenge, inviting teams to compete to win prizes for designing accessible autonomous vehicles. Teams must incorporate input from groups representing individuals with disabilities. Register for a June 3 webinar to learn more.
Driver training moves online
MassDOT has moved two MArtap driver training classes online. Drivers can register to attend Disability Awareness and Defensive Driving as online webinars. Each is scheduled to occur twice a month, once on a Thursday and once on a Saturday, through August.

For the most up-to-date information about MArtap classes, visit the  MArtap website  or subscribe to the   MArtap newsletter .
Updates related to COVID-19
For up-to-date information about a particular transportation service, please contact the transportation provider directly.

For general information, visit these websites:

In addition, various organizations have compiled COVID-19 resources related to transportation or mobility management:
Job postings
The Human Service Transportation Office is hiring a Transportation Compliance and Risk Management Officer.

The Worcester Regional Transit Authority is hiring a travel trainer.

The MBTA is hiring an ADA Coordinator for their HR department.
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