Compiled by The Bedford Citizen
The DASH, Bedford’s two-year pilot program in public transportation, launched on Monday, September 12, and made its town-wide debut in the Bedford Day parade.
The Bedford Citizen and Bedford TV scheduled an impromptu interview with passenger Renu Bostwick who was riding the DASH on her way home from work in Burlington on the day after the service launched. An informed and ardent proponent of environmental and climate justice, Bostwick is delighted that she can ride to work in the morning with her husband and return to Bedford via a 20-minute DASH trip.
Bostwick hopes that the data-gathering aspect of the DASH’s funding will help to identify clusters of trips that will afford multiple riders the convenience of a DASH connection. “I’ve often ridden my bicycle to work,” she said, “but it’s like taking my life into my hands.” Traffic can make the 5-mile trip into a long commute, and other public transit options (the MBTA bus to Lexington Center, then transferring to LexPress to get to work) turn the trip into more than a 90-minute event.
Greg Dolan, Bedford TV’s Executive Director, appreciated the quality of DASH’s brand new passenger van. “It is very comfortable, and more spacious than I anticipated,” he said. “I was also impressed with the convenience DASH offers. Its door-to-door service is great and I recommend that people sign up and use it more.”The vehicle’s ability to handle wheelchairs and onboard WiFi for internet-savvy commuters also impressed Dolan.
Ridership during the first week met the general expectations of the DASH’s proponents.
Bedford Youth and Family Services Director Sue Baldauf noted that there were multiple riders on most trips, and Healthy Bedford Coordinator Carla Olson added that ridership is increasing, with future bookings and requests in the pipeline. Bostwick was surprised to find rides already scheduled when she booked her second day of service ride.
Selectman Margot Fleischman presented the original article to fund part of Bedford’s DASH experiment at Annual Town Meeting. “It was hard to tell if people would be aware of the DASH and know that they could schedule rides during the first week of service,” she said, “so I was delighted that the DASH had as many riders as it did, since I really thought of it as a ‘”soft open’ before Bedford Day.”
Looking ahead, riders signed up for advance rides. “A friend at Bedford Day told me she has signed up her 14-year-old son for a weekly ride to Concord after seeing the Bedford TV Facebook live spot,” noted Bostwick, “and a handicapped friend from church told me she is very happy to have more options and has been using it a lot already.”
The DASH van was a popular addition to the Bedford Day parade, and more than 100 residents collected free ride tickets while the van was parked at the fair.
Residents’ enthusiasm took many forms. The resident who asked what might happen if the rider did not speak English found out Fernand, the van’s driver, speaks five languages although the DASH dispatch center is only English speaking as far as we know.
Olson reported positive feedback from Bedford Day, “Folks are enthusiastic and the vast majority of people already were aware of the DASH and came to our booth to ask specific questions about the service.”
“One friend stopped by with his middle-school daughter to see the van and the route map,” said Fleischman. “We were explaining about how kids can use the service, but it turned out they had already signed up their daughter and filled out the permission slips online.
“It was exciting to know that some families were already thinking about ways their kids could take the DASH to after school activities, Fleischman added.“Another friend who uses a wheelchair stopped by with her two kids to say hello. She asked if the van was Handicap Accessible, thinking that it might not be. Carla and I were so delighted to share with her that indeed it is accessible and gave her a free ride coupon. It just made my day!”
Learn more about DASH on the Town’s website or call 781-275-3274 to schedule a trip.