Our Small Town Summit in November 2018 was focused on the challenges of transportation in the rural communities of western Massachusetts. Former Rural Commonwealth Co-Director Toby Gould followed upon that meeting by exploring the unique transportation issues in the region we have been calling the “Rural Core” – those small western Mass communities between the Vermont and Connecticut borders on the north and south, and between I-91 and Route 7 on the east and west. Toby wrote a short paper outlining those challenges called, “Transportation in Massachusetts’ Rural Core: What’s missing?”
Around the same time, Andy Hogeland (Berkshire Selectmen’s Association, Williamstown Select Board) wrote a report on transportation in the Berkshires that highlighted similar challenges to those Toby outlined in his paper. Together, Andy and Toby submitted their reports to The Berkshire Eagle. In February, the paper ran an article on the issues they raised, “Studies note steep climb to improve rural transportation.”
Building on information from the November Small Town Summit and Toby’s initial research, Rural Commonwealth will coordinate a workgroup that will meet in October to prototype at least one new model for transportation services in the Rural Core. The goals of this workgroup are to:
- create a locally-designed transportation model that simultaneously meets multiple needs in the Rural Core, including easier access for residents to work, school, food, and healthcare services.
- shift the conversation about what is possible in these communities by offering an alternative to the single service, silo-based transportation planning that has left the Rural Core underserved.
The prototype transportation model(s) generated by this workgroup and follow-up steps will be presented at the Saturday, November 2 Small Town Summit. (Save the date. Event details to come in September.)
Volunteer opportunity 1: If you want to join this service design workgroup, please be in touch. I am looking for 10 – 20 participants who:
- have first-hand, on-the-ground experience with different types of transportation challenges in the Rural Core;
- are from different towns within this region;
- play well with others;
- and are excited about the chance to participate in a creative problem-solving exercise that will have a significant impact on the lives of rural western Mass residents.
Volunteer opportunity 2: If you want to help out but can’t be in the workgroup, please be in touch. I would love to hear your stories about transportation challenges in the Rural Core and any special type of transportation issue you hope the workgroup will address.
Volunteer opportunity 3: This summer, we need some help compiling information about rural transportation models in other parts of the US and world. It would be great to add another volunteer to our research team for this project. The research team’s findings will be distributed to workgroup participants in September to inform their prototyping work in October.
If you are interested in any of the volunteer projects above, or if you just want more info, please be in touch with me by replying to this email or calling the number below.
Director, Rural Commonwealth