Transit Need Profile: Transportation Disadvantaged Populations in Massachusetts

February, 2016
Transit Need Profile: Transportation Disadvantaged
Populations in Massachusetts
This analysis compares transit needs identified by each of the 13 Regional Planning
Organizations (RPOs) 1 in Massachusetts in their Coordinated Human Services
Transportation (CHST) plans updated in 2014. 2 While each plan offers unique regional
economic and demographic context, identifies existing services, unmet transit needs 3
and priorities for action, this comparative perspective allows for a broader understanding
of the most common transit needs in the state and identifies similarities and differences
across regions in the Commonwealth.
Data and Methodology
The RPOs used different methodologies for the assessment of local transit needs and
applied varying rigor to sampling methods, survey techniques, and data analysis in the
CHST plans. Although findings cannot be generalized to all transportation
disadvantaged populations in the Commonwealth, the compilation of transit needs
allows for a broader understanding of what is considered most important to
organizations serving people with disabilities, the elderly, and people with low income
and to members of the general public that provided feedback at public forums. Each
CHST plan was thoroughly reviewed and a master list of transit needs compiled. The
analysis shows what needs were most common statewide, within each region, and in
each category. Frequency (n=13) indicates the number of RPOs is not equivalent to the
Major Findings
1. RPOs identified 24 mutually exclusive needs that fit into the following distinct
categories: Service Expansion (8), Coordination of Service (6), Accessibility (6),
and Information Dissemination (4)
2. RPOs identified 11 needs on average, the fewest (7) came from Central
Massachusetts and the Islands, respectively and the most (19) were named in
the Boston MPO area
3. Needs were diverse yet common to most regions. (Table 1) Half of all needs
were identified by at least 50% of RPOs. The most frequently cited needs were:
 Service Expansion - At least 60% of regions called for
 Additional routes (11 RPOs)
 More frequent service (10 RPOs)
 Evening service and weekend service (9-10 RPOs)
 Service to career centers (8 RPOs)
Access to destinations in rural areas in Western and Central
Massachusetts (3 RPOs).
 Coordination – 50% -70% of all regions indicated service coordination as
a missed opportunity. Better communication between providers of
transportation services and social service organizations whose clients rely
on public transit services was most commonly identified as a specific
need. For example, better coordination might mean that transit providers
have to work with medical facilities to identify schedules that work for both
patients –mostly seniors and people with disabilities– and medical
professionals alike or identify a pick-up/drop off location at a hospital
campus to avoid traffic jam at the main entrance.
 Coordination of service with medical facilities (9 RPOs)
 Coordination of service between transit providing agencies (9
In the past decade, social service agencies went through consolidation. In
many cases this meant closure of important service centers, leaving
remaining centers that might not be located on a fixed transit route,
makings access to essential social services difficult for transit dependent
 Coordination with social service providers (8 RPOs).
In addition, it was pointed out that transit agencies should offer
interconnected routes, seamless transfers, and coordinated schedules
between service regions.
 Better link between modes of transportation/ease of transfer (7
 Accessibility – The most widely reported accessibility issues were
related to deficiencies of the pedestrian infrastructure (e.g. broken or lack
of sidewalks, walkways, curb cuts, or cross walks that would allow riders
to easily and safely access transit services), bus shelters, vehicle
maintenance issues, and modern equipment. When modern equipment
was identified as a need, it was commonly in reference to purchasing new
vans with a wheelchair lift to transport people with disabilities with ease.
 Faulty pedestrian infrastructure (7 RPOs)
 Lack of modern equipment (7 RPOs)
 Vehicle maintenance (6 RPOs)
 Bus shelters (6 RPOs).
 Information dissemination and education – Seven RPOs indicated a
need for educating riders about how to use existing transit services, how
to read route maps and schedules, and how to make trip reservations for
demand response services. This information provides an opportunity for
regional transit authorities to expand travel training services, improve their
information dissemination methods and communication strategies with
Table 1
4. Within each sub-region, RPOs identified several common needs, signaling the
potential for coordinated response at the state level. (Table 2)
 Every sub-region but most prominently Western Massachusetts
(Pioneer Valley, Berkshire and Franklin) and Greater Boston (Lowell,
Merrimack, and Boston) had the largest need for service expansion.
 Coordination was a missed opportunity in Greater Boston, the Cape &
Islands and the South East (Old Colony and SRPEDD)
 Accessibility –e.g. fixing pedestrian infrastructure that makes accessing
public transit services possible– was the most frequently cited unmet
need in Greater Boston and on the Cape and Islands
 Need for travel training and better marketing of existing services were
named unmet
need in Western Massachusetts,
Massachusetts (Montachusett and Worcester) and Greater Boston.
Table 2
Interested readers are encouraged to read individual CHST plans that can be
For detailed information about the need profile of transportation disadvantaged
populations in Massachusetts, please contact
Author would like to thank Ryan Whalen from the University of Massachusetts Boston,
Collins Center for his able research assistance and expert advice on this project.
Reference: Aniko Laszlo. (2016) Transit Need Profile: Transportation Disadvantaged
populations in Massachusetts. Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Boston,
Berkshire Regional Planning Organization (BRPO), Boston Region (BMPO), Cape Cod
Commission (CCC), Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC), Franklin
Region Council of Governments (FRCOG), Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), Merrimack
Valley Planning Commission (MVPC), Montachusett Regional Planning Commission (MRPC),
Northern Middlesex Council of Governments (NMCOG), Nantucket Planning and Economic
Development Commission (NPEDC), Old Colony Planning Commission (OCPC), Pioneer Valley
Planning Commission (PVPC), Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development
District (SRPEDD)
Federal Transit Law, as amended by MAP-21, requires that projects selected for funding under
the Elderly Individuals and Individuals with Disabilities (Section 5310) be derived from a locally
developed, coordinated public transit-human services transportation plan and that the plan be
developed through a process that includes representatives of public, private, and non-profit
transportation and human services providers and participation by members of the public. These
plans identify the transportation needs of individuals with disabilities, older adults, and people with
low incomes, provide strategies for meeting these needs, and prioritize transportation services for
funding and implementation.
Unmet transit need is any actual or perceived deficiency in the system of public transit services,
specialized transportation services, paratransit services or private transportation services which
has been identified by community members or through the regional planning process and which
has not been funded and implemented. Unmet needs may include desires for transportation
services by any group or member of the public wishing to express such needs.