In July, the Councils on Aging (COAs) in Acton, Boxborough, Littleton, and Maynard regionalized their van services in partnership with CrossTown Connect, a municipally-led Transportation Management Association. The towns had previously centralized vehicle dispatch, but had been unable to coordinate further due to service area boundaries: Acton and Maynard are served by the Lowell Regional Transit Authority, while Boxborough and Littleton are in the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority service area. Earlier this year, MassDOT helped the two transit authorities develop a procedure to allow coordination, resulting in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the transit authorities and CrossTown Connect.
After the MOU was signed, CrossTown Connect convened the four COAs to work together to standardize policies so that riders would know the fare regardless of which town's vehicle came to pick them up. Through a series of in-person meetings, the COA Directors worked together to come up with a uniform set of policies, though they decided that operating hours would still vary by town. Meanwhile, CrossTown Connect reprogrammed their dispatching software so that it would treat the four towns as one region, allowing for vehicles from one town to pick up and drop off in another. All drivers have access to tablets that have maps and GPS capacity to help them navigate unfamiliar parts of the region.
"Previously, when you would go to Emerson Hospital, you would see a van from each of our towns waiting there to pick someone up," explains Pamela Campbell, Director of Elder and Human Services in Littleton. "Our van might drive right by your house but couldn't pick you up." Under the new system, the Littleton van can pick up a senior from Acton at the hospital and drop him off at home on its way to drop off other riders in Littleton. "This makes it much easier for us to free up the vans," Campbell notes.
The new system went into effect July 11, and CrossTown Connect is treating it as a pilot. After six months all partners will evaluate whether any adjustments are needed to the structure. CrossTown Connect hopes to turn this increased efficiency into higher ridership over time, and the new system has already opened up additional opportunities for riders: Littleton runs a biweekly shuttle to Lahey Clinic in Burlington and hospitals in Boston, and offered to open up empty seats on the shuttle to riders from the other towns.
This information is provided by the EOHHS Human Service Transportation Office