FRCOG seeks to bring Lyft to aid partner groups; Would supplement existing FRTA services

  • Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield is one of the entities identified to benefit from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments’ plan to bring Lyft to Franklin County. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Greenfield Community College is one of the entities identified to benefit from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments’ plan to bring Lyft to Franklin County. STAFF FILE PHOTO/Matt Burkhartt

  • The Community Health Center of Franklin County is one of the entities identified to benefit from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments’ plan to bring Lyft to Franklin County. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 8/6/2021 4:26:47 PM

GREENFIELD — The Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) is ready to bring Lyft to Franklin County partner organizations as soon as it can find drivers.

According to Maureen Mullaney, a transportation and geographic information systems program manager with FRCOG, plans to provide eight organizations with subsidized Lyft ride shares were ready to be enacted in March 2019. Halted by the COVID-19 pandemic and stifled by a difficulty finding drivers, Mullaney said FRCOG and its partners are eager to hit the gas.

The idea has been to supplement existing Franklin Regional Transit Authority (FRTA) services with additional transportation options for times when no alternative is available. Those who would have access to the program would include clients of any of the partner organizations, with the benefit being free or reduced cost rides.

“It would be really cutting-edge for Franklin County to have ride share opportunities,” Mullaney said. “Right now, we don’t have any.”

FRCOG’s initial goal, she said, is to primarily service eight partners: MassHire Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Tapestry Health, the Center for New Americans, Greenfield Community College, the Community Health Center of Franklin County, Baystate Franklin Medical Center, The Brick House Community Resource Center and The United Arc. Mullaney said funding for the project equals around $75,000, which is money that would be put toward paying for each ride.

FRTA’s Access program has played an important role in providing the community with reliable transportation, but zoning limitations and limited hours still don’t provide residents with constant coverage. Mullaney explained bringing in Lyft would not be an attempt to compete with FRTA, but rather a way to fill gaps in accessibility.

Using Greenfield Community College as an example, she described a scenario in which a student has evening classes that adjourn later than nearby public transportation runs. With the Lyft partner program, the student would have a fallback option.

“This is designed to not compete with FRTA,” Mullaney said. “It’s intended to supplement the transportation that is already here.”

Mullaney said all that is needed to get started is drivers. She cited pandemic concerns and a lack of awareness as likely reasons behind the lack of interest.

“We’ve done some outreach on our own, but it hasn’t proven productive,” she said. “I think we might not have reached the right audience.”

In addition to getting the project more exposure, Mullaney said public recognition of the project’s importance might motivate prospective drivers to apply. The hope is that success serving this abbreviated population might later translate to a more general growth of ride sharing in Franklin County.

“Aside from the benefits of employment, this is really an opportunity to start something in Franklin County,” she said.

Those interested in applying to be a Lyft driver in Franklin County can do so by going to drivelyftfranklincounty.splashthat.com. For more information or to alert FRCOG of your interest, contact Maureen Mullaney at mmullaney@frcog.org.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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