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Senior transportation could become more affordable

Date: 5/7/2012

May 7, 2012

By Chris Maza

EAST LONGMEADOW — Seniors in East Longmeadow could find an easier, more cost effective way to get to the Pleasant View Senior Center as soon at May 7.

Council on Aging (COA) Director Carolyn Brennan told the Board of Selectmen at its May 1 meeting that the planning for the implementation of a transportation system to and from the Senior Center was all but complete.

"We are doing a soft launch in East Longmeadow to try to compliment the shuttle service that we have now," she said. "This is our official announcement that we're going to be starting in East Longmeadow on Monday."

Brennan has been exploring the option for months. She told the Board of Selectmen in January that she hoped to establish a regional program similar to the "Tri-Town Trolley" transit system that included East Longmeadow, Hampden and Wilbraham when she was in charge of the Hampden COA.

One of the primary reasons she gave for the pursuit of the program was that the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority's (PVTA) services are too costly for some seniors. For some, she said, it could cost $5 a day in order to go to the Senior Center for lunch.

The cost of the town's shuttle service will be $1 a day. In addition to the reduced cost, Brennan said the regional transit system would be "more accessible and much more flexible."

"This is going to compliment the PVTA's service. It is not going to replace it," Brennan said. "Hopefully it will take some of the burden off of the PVTA to provide senior rides."

Seniors interested in taking advantage of the new regional shuttle, which will be available Monday through Friday, are asked to call 525-5412 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The Hampden COA, which currently manages its own transportation on a volunteer basis, is on board with the program and will coordinate dispatching for the transit initiative.

"We are going to be contracting out with the Hampden Council on Aging to provide the dispatching services," she said. "The outreach worker there has been doing all of the coordination for their rides, so they have a desperate need for this and have the knowledge to do the dispatching."

The Hampden COA volunteer driver, who currently operates their transit service with his own car, will be hired on a part-time basis driving a van.

The van that will be utilized by the transit service is being borrowed from the PVTA for a six-month period, having previously been in service as a shuttle in the Belchertown area.

"They have gone through it to make sure that it is worthy to be used to drive seniors around," Brennan said.

With the addition of the service, the board unanimously approved the expansion of the ceiling on the COA's revolving fund from $60,000 to $100,000.

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