By Debra Parkhurst
On December 7, Bedford’s Economic Development Coordinator Alyssa Sandoval met with the Selectmen to outline a pilot program for an expansion of local transit options for Bedford residents.
The pilot program would operate between September 2016 and June 2017,offering transportation service within Bedford between noon and 6 pm on weekdays. A private contractor would provide a combination of fixed route service and “on demand” rides.
In 2014, a survey of Bedford citizens identified the need for more transportation options, including increased public transit.
According to Sandoval, Healthy Bedford looked at several options, including adding a larger vehicle and an extra staff person for the Bedford Local Transit (BLT). However, input from staff led to the conclusion that the use of a private contractor during a trial program would provide more flexibility and time for the Town to understand the demand for the service, without incurring capital costs and long-term expense of additional vehicles and staff.
The use of a real-time call service will provide much needed data that would confirm the actual need and use of the service, as well as where a fixed route would work.
Currently, the BLT provides a fixed route service,as required by its funding obligations from the MBTA/DOT, while also offering some limited in-town on demand service. However, the BLT dispatch service is limited to one hour in the morning while the ride service has limited hours (9am to 3 pm), and is often booked.
Sandoval said the proposed service is not a commuter service, and not intended to duplicate the BLT or the MBTA, but could provide an additional transportation option. It does have potential for lunchtime movement of workers from the industrial parks to the commercial center; however, the proposed service is primarily for the use of residents.
The Selectmen discussed extending the initial term of the pilot program to 12 months, recognizing that the costs will then run over from one fiscal year to the next.
Sandoval’s memo is the basis for a budget presentation to the Finance Committee to fund the local transit pilot program at the March 2016 Annual Town Meeting. The Town would also apply for a Community Transit Program Grant for FY2017.