In the next couple of weeks, there will be a new 2019 Subaru Outback in The Valley ferrying seniors and others who qualify for free transportation to aggregate senior lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Evergreen Place.
Seniors and others will be able to call and arrange rides to lunch as well as shopping, doctors’ offices and hospital visits. The car and homegrown transportation service (including a part-time driver) are part of a pilot program that is taking place through the cooperative efforts of the Mad River Valley Senior Citizens, the Mad River Valley Community Fund and the Mad River Valley Interfaith Council.
As proposed, the three organizations will contribute $15,000 each for two years to fund the pilot project. This project is noteworthy for several reasons. First, last fall local planners and officials learned that The Valley’s public transit provider, Green Mountain Transit, had a significant budget deficit and routes in The Valley were potentially on the chopping block. Rather than wring their hands and beat their breasts, local folks got busy and worked to fill the void.
Second, this pilot, with its combination of efforts by three local nonprofits, could be expanded to include leasing transportation from Green Mountain Transit – including a handicap-accessible van – in the future. That’s important to making sure all in need of transportation have it.
Finally, what a successful pilot project like this can demonstrate is that local people can provide local solutions with local funding. There’s never a free lunch and while Green Mountain Transit may have allayed its budgetary woes in the short term, in the long term it’s obvious that The Valley is going to be asked to pony up in terms of costs of public transit.
A successful pilot program will provide critical logistical information about need, location, timing and costs, which will be critical for local towns and those making spending decisions going forward.
Regardless of whether the local funds come from property taxes or from a local option tax proposal that is currently under consideration, it’s clear that a local contribution is going to be needed.
Those who worked hard to bring this two-year pilot program to fruition are to be commended for their dedication to local folks needing a ride but also for their forward thinking attitude.