MILFORD — While a committee in Goffstown has been charged with looking at the need for public transportation, the Blue Bus in Milford is merrily rolling along, providing affordable, accessible rides for those who need a lift.
In March, Goffstown voters approved a petitioned warrant article calling for the creation of an ad hoc committee to examine residents’ transportation needs, said Assistant Town Administrator Derek Horne.
The board of selectmen is in the process of forming the committee, which will be asked to identify whether there is lack of transportation, and if so, to detail the shortcomings, look at the available resources, and suggest a solution. The committee is expected to work through the summer and file a final report with the board of selectmen by Sept. 1. However, the committee will remain in existence through next year’s town meeting.
The committee will be made up of between nine and 11 members, Horne said, and will include a member from the board of selectmen and the budget committee. The town is accepting applications for volunteers through April 24, and the board is expected to appoint members at their regular meeting on April 28, Horne said.
In Milford, residents undertook a similar process in 2006, working with the Granite State Organizing Project to determine who needed rides and how to provide them. Surveys, coffees and other information gathering tools were used to assess the need and organizers found that many people, including the elderly and those with disabilities, had difficulty finding reliable, affordable transportation to doctors’ appointments and to do their shopping, said Janet Langdell, chair of the Souhegan Valley Transportation Collaborative.
With the problem laid out, the group started looking for a solution and decided that instead of purchasing a bus it made more sense to employ a subcontractor to provide the services, and Nashua Transit was hired, and the Blue Bus — named for its bright color — now comes to town on a regular basis. Originally the bus served residents from Milford, Amherst, Brookline and Hollis, but last September, Mont Vernon joined the route, and in March, Wilton climbed on board.
Since 2008, Langdell said, the bus has provided more than 14,000 rides. It costs nearly $190,000 a year to bring the service to the area, but 80 percent of the cost is offset by federal funding, and the remaining 20 percent comes from the communities served by the bus. Donations to the Souhegan Valley Transportation Collaborative help provide those in need with free rides, otherwise rides are $4 for roundtrip service.
Rides are door-to-door and residents are picked up at their homes. Langdell said that transportation is also provided to local residents by volunteers through a program called FISH (Friend in Service Helping), but said that there simply aren’t enough volunteers to meet the growing need for transportation.