Use this search box to find articles that have run in our newspapers over the last several years.

Grant could help bring bike share program to Holyoke

Date: 11/7/2014

SPRINGFIELD – The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) recently received a grant to be used toward a pair of clean air and energy efficiency programs slated for several communities, including Holyoke.

The Patrick Administration announced $160,000 in grants from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Department of Energy Resources for clean energy and efficiency efforts in Massachusetts, including $30,000 to the PVPC to fund a regional bicycle sharing program and an initiative to increase the used of energy efficient heating and cooling systems.

“These communities have taken an active role in planning their sustainable energy futures and the Patrick Administration is excited to help them take the first steps in putting these plans into action,” Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett said.

David Elvin, PVPC senior planner, explained approximately half of the grant would go toward funding the effort to create a bicycle sharing network that includes Holyoke, Springfield, Northampton and Amherst, which has been in the works “for some time.”

Through the program, bikes could be picked up, for a fee, from centralized docking locations as an alternative mode of transportation. Like programs already exist in larger municipalities such as Boston and New York City.

Local educational institutions, including Springfield Technical Community College, Mount Holyoke College, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Hampshire College, Smith College and Amherst College could also be included.

The PVPC launched a Regional Bike Share Feasibility Study earlier this year, working collaboratively with the aforementioned municipalities and higher learning institutions in the hopes of creating an implementation plan by the end of the year.

According to survey results released by the PVPC in August, 80 percent of the 500 people questioned voiced interest in a bike share program, with an emphasis on seeing locations in downtown centers, near bus routes, and on college campuses.

More than 60 percent of participants who did not own a bicycle said they would be willing to try a bike share program.

However, many respondents also voiced concerns over current infrastructure, which can be restrictive or dangerous for bicyclists and stated improvements must be made in concert with the implementation of a bike share network.

The other half of the grant will be used for a PVPC initiative designed to help residents purchase more energy efficient home heating and cooling components, such as solar hot water systems and geothermal heat pumps.   

“Like the Solarize Mass program, we’re looking to create a way to help people pay for higher energy efficiency tools,” Elvin said. “We’re looking to create something like Groupon, where if a certain number of people purchase, they can get a discount off of residential units.”