November 21, 2014
Coordination Helps Fulfill Unmet Needs
A year after the first Regional Coordinating Council (RCC) formed in Berkshire County on December 2, 2013, there are twelve other RCCs across Massachusetts. These Councils are locally formed and led, and have grown into vibrant forums for discussing local service gaps with a wide range of stakeholders around the table. They function as effective information exchanges and identify local transportation priorities for action. What we have learned from the work of the RCCs is that even in a geographically small state like the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, local needs can be diverse and priorities different. Just recently, two very importation transportation forums took place in neighboring regions. In response to unmet needs in local and long distance medical transportation on the South Cost, the Southeastern Massachusetts RCC (SERCC) –covering 28 communities from Attleboro to Plymouth and ten communities in the Fall River – New Bedford area- brought together stakeholders from the medical community, transportation industry, and the social services field to discuss improvements in medical transportation services through coordinated approaches. Forum attendees participated in a group discussion in the format of “World Café” to talk about current barriers to interconnected services and suggest solutions. From the wealth of information collected at the forum, members of the SERCC will identify a priority project and submit a grant proposal to the Community Transit Grant Program that opens for competitive applications early 2015.
Bordering the coverage area of SERCC from the north is the 13-town area of Neponset Valley, also known as Three Rivers –drawing its name from the Neponset, Charles and Canoe Rivers. Leaders of the Neponset Valley Transportation Management Association, the Chamber of Commerce, 495/Metro West Partnership and Metropolitan Area Planning Council organized a forum to discuss key commuting challenges on local transit routes, improve options for reverse commute, find first mile/last mile connections, discuss ways of improving urban to suburban commuting, and employer-based transportation programs in the region. The forum brought together about 50 participants representing the business community, urban and transportation planning, transit providers, human service agencies and elected town officials. Highlighting the fact that transportation needs do not stop at institutional boundaries and geographic borders, many of the participants came from agencies that operate outside Neponset Valley such as in Worcester, Acton, Framingham or Taunton. They were eager to share their experience and success stories in coordinated employment transportation elsewhere in Massachusetts. Findings from the forum will be included in the long range transportation plan of Greater Boston.
The long-term vision for coordinated transportation is to effectively eliminate barriers created by existing boundaries between regions. This can be achieved by building trust and partnership across the aisles and by working together on problem resolution. The RCCs seem to be early catalysts for change in bridging transportation gaps in the Commonwealth. Congratulations to forum organizers and participants in both regions!