FRTA to extend pilot program, thanks to $171K grant

  • Franklin Regional Transit Authority can now extend its pilot program that allows anyone to schedule a next-day or same-day ride by using its mobile app, thanks to a $171,050 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Published: 1/13/2020 5:49:06 PM
Modified: 1/13/2020 5:48:20 PM

GREENFIELD — The Franklin Regional Transit Authority was awarded $171,050 for an extension of its microtransit pilot program, which allows people to schedule a next-day or same-day ride using its mobile app.

According to a Massachusetts Department of Transportation press release, MassDOT is providing a total of $3.5 million in grants for regional transit authorities across the state “to implement best practices and innovative services to benefit customers.”

FRTA Administrator Tina Cote explained that FRTA ACCESS, which launched in September and was originally scheduled to end on June 30 of this year before the grant award, is the transit authority’s micro-transit pilot program. She said people scheduling rides will be taken to destinations within two different zones on smaller curb-to-curb Demand Response buses. Demand Response is the FRTA’s program for transporting people over age 60 and veterans who have a 70 percent disabled rating.

“The program we launched is going well so far. We’ve been working with social service agencies to help with some of their transportation issues,” Cote said Friday. “We have well over 100 people signed up for the program. It’s gaining traction, but the extension will hopefully give us one more year under our belt to assess whether it should continue, and, depending on how it goes, expand to other communities that don’t have this service.”

Residents of two zones have access to the app: Zone 1, which consists of Greenfield, Montague, Deerfield, Whately, Gill and Leyden; and Zone 2, which consists of Orange, New Salem, Warwick and Wendell. People can only travel within their zone.

Services operate Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. within each zone. All rides will cost $5 for a one-way trip, and additional riders will cost $2.50. Cote said rides are open to the public on a first come, first served basis.

“We’d like to expand those hours slightly to add more times or to be able to perhaps travel between the two zones,” Cote said.

Currently, she said, people can only schedule rides through the app. She said FRTA is working on making it so that people can also schedule rides online, if they don’t have a smartphone. The app can be downloaded at the Apple App Store or Google Play by searching for FRTA.

“I think its beneficial to individuals in Franklin County,” Cote said of FRTA ACCESS. “We’re working to figure out how we can get to rural locations and this is a good model to test that with. We’ve got 41 municipalities and 10 have fixed routes. We want to provide access for more rural towns … and using this as a model going forward to get people from their house to a bus route or their house to an appointment — that’s what we’re trying capitalize on.”

For more information, call FRTA at 413-774-2262 or FTM dispatch at 413-773-8090.

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