The Finance Committee voted to recommend to the Annual Town Meeting approval for funding a two-year local transportation pilot projectThemotion passed on a 5:4 vote at FinCom’s March 17 meeting. Currently,the Bedford Local Transit (BLT) is fully utilized, primarily by seniors, leaving many residents without a local transit option.The hope is to serve more seniors, plus the disabled, children, and other non-drivers.The current model was set up 30 years ago and has remained substantially the same since then. The Selectmen also recommend approval.
The pilot project would be for two years, costing $104,794 in FY17 for start-up costs and nine months’ service and $102,493 FY18, for another 12 months. A grant application for $46,947 has been submitted to the MassachusettsDepartment of Transportation.
The service would be provided through a contractor who would supply the vehicle, driver, dispatcher, insurance, and maintenance. A key advantage of a contracted service would be the ability to use data analysis software to track requests for rides and to determine which transportation needs are not being met.
Finance Committee members asked about alternatives such as Uber, taxi vouchers, and expanded BLT service. But Selectman Margot Fleishman underscored that the purpose of the pilot is to get accurate information about what the needs of residents are. Calls to the dispatcher would be recorded even if a ride were not available, so demand can be analyzed.With that information fixed routes may be feasible. Currently, dispatch is available only one hour a day through the van driver and often rides are fully booked. There is no systematic way of tracking unfulfilled requests.