Rockingham County has one of the fastest growing senior populations in New Hampshire, and that will accelerate in the coming 10-20 years. Access to transportation for medical care, groceries and other basic life needs can make the difference for many in being able to age in place and live at home, or need to enter long-term care. While COAST and CART offer excellent service, only six communities in the RPC region are served by regular public transportation. The large majority of other communities depend on non-profit organizations to provide limited mobility service. Needs assessments by United Way of the Greater Seacoast, Exeter Hospital and other agencies continue to point to the need for expanding transportation options. RPC staff work on a number of initiatives to address this need:
Transportation Assistance for Seacoast Citizens (TASC)
Transportation Assistance for Seacoast Citizens (TASC) is a volunteer driver program based in Hampton and serving the ten RPC communities of Brentwood, Exeter, Greenland, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Kensington, North Hampton, Rye, Seabrook and Stratham. Service is available to senior citizens and individuals with disabilities within these communities and to destinations outside the region as far away as Boston. RPC helped establish the organization and continues to provide technical assistance as needed.
Coordinating Public Transit & Human Service Transportation
In 2009 the State of New Hampshire designated a network of ten Regional Coordinating Councils for Community Transportation (RCCs) to undertake cooperative planning and transit service development to expand community transportation options throughout the state. RCC membership is made up of the regional public transit agency, non-profit and some for-profit transportation providers, other health and human service agencies that purchase transportation for their clients, and municipal staff. RPC staff are involved with two of these regional transit development efforts:
Southeast NH RCC (Region 10)
Also known as the Alliance for Community Transportation (ACT), this RCC covers all of the Strafford planning region and the eastern half of the Rockingham planning region. COAST provides staffing assistance for ACT, along with RPC and the Strafford Regional Planning Commission (SRPC). ACT has established a regional call center with a goal of centralizing scheduling and dispatch services for multiple human service agencies. ACT has also spearheaded development of new services such as the the Ready Rides volunteer driver program and helping TASC secure a wheelchair accessible minivan to serve more people with mobility impairments.
The ACT region has gone further in implementing coordination of community transportation services than any other RCC in the state. Part of this is due to the willingness of COAST to incorporate shared scheduling and dispatching capacity into their operation to develop a regional call center, and commit funding to the project over many years. Part of this is the sheer length of time the region has worked on Coordination, with ACT’s formation predating that of most of the other RCCs in the state. This meant that the ACT region was prepared to apply for early federal funding streams for coordination and mobility management prior to other regions and invested those funds in establishing a mobility manager position early on. This combination of commitment by the transit system to be a lead agency, time and staff capacity spent building relationships, the experience and expertise of the mobility manager, and openness to change from agencies like RNMOW and Community Action Partnership of Strafford County have resulted in cost efficiencies for agencies, improved service access and ease of use for riders.
The Greater Manchester-Derry-Salem RCC covers six towns in the western portion of the RPC region (Atkinson, Danville, Hampstead, Plaistow, Salem, and Sandown) as well as all 14 communities in the Southern NH Planning Commission region. This larger unified region was formed following the merger of the Derry-Salem CART transit system with the Manchester Transit Authority. The RCC has worked with CART to establish several new services including senior shuttles serving Hampstead, Derry and Londonderry; supplemental transportation to the Vic Geary Senior Center in Plaistow through the Rockingham Nutrition Meals on Wheels Program (RNMOW), supplemental service in the Manchester area provided by Easter Seals NH, and several senior shuttle services operated by MTA in Goffstown, New Boston and Hooksett. SNHPC and RPC staff coordinate RCC meetings every other month, develop grant funding applications, and collect and analyze transit need data to aid in development of new services.