On November 1, a Small Town Summit was held in the Belchertown Town Hall to look at the problems of rural transportation. A group of town leaders from both sides of the river reviewed the position paper prepared by Rural Commonwealth and added information both good and bad about transportation in their town.
- Village Neighbors, a brand new membership service has started in Leverett, New Salem, Wendell, and Shutesbury which provides transportation, help with household and technical tasks for an annual fee. Participants must be 60 or older.
- Both the Brick House in Turners and both the Williamsburg and Shelburne Falls Senior Centers give rides on demand.
- Hilltown CDC coordinates Hilltowns Easy-Ride for over 60 and vets.
- There are various state regulations concerning types of vehicles, who can be served.
- The Quaboag Connector provides inexpensive rides within nine towns on a first come-first served basis with employment and education receiving priority.
A former retail owner suggested that a package delivery service to the hilltowns is an entrepreneurial opportunity waiting for someone to take this on. While being helpful to rural residents, this service would also increase business to local merchants.
The failure of Boston to fully fund vocational education transportation continues to be a tremendous burden on small-town budgets. Beyond the cost, the fact that each year can see wide variation from the previous year due to student placement makes budgeting very difficult.
Such issues as sparsely populated areas, long-distance trips, limited local funding, the “aging in place” effect are factors that suburban and urban communities don’t see.
Rural Commonwealth will give the results of this productive discussion to our legislators and the administration. We will publish their response on our website.