By Jenevra Wetmore
The biggest source of carbon pollution in Vermont comes from transportation. On average, every Vermonter is responsible for between 5-6 tons of carbon emissions from driving. If we are going to meet the goal of having 90% of our total energy use come from renewable sources by 2050—a goal outlined in Vermont’s 2016 Comprehensive Energy Plan (CEP)—we will need to reduce our transportation emissions. Using public transportation is one of the ways to do this.
Being a rural state, Vermonters are accustomed to hopping in our cars whenever we want. While the convenience of driving a car will never be outdone by public transportation, rising fuel costs and concerns about climate change are good reasons for us car-drivers to make an effort to use public transportation when possible. Benefits of public transportation include: less traffic congestion, increased safety when compared to driving, financial savings, reduced air pollution and carbon emissions, and other community benefits including job creation, increased property value, and more opportunities for community members who cannot drive or do not own cars.
There are some basic existing options for public transportation in Woodstock. The Thompson Senior Center runs a door-to-door transportation program for seniors and disabled community members from the towns of Barnard, Bridgewater, Pomfret, and Woodstock. These rides can take residents to and from the Thompson Center, or to other stops in Woodstock such as the grocery store, Health Center, and more. The Vermont Elders and People with Disabilities program, or “Dial-A-Ride” Program through Tri-Valley Transit (TVT) is another free service for riders aged 60 or older, or living with an ADA disability.
Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Thompson Senior Center (TSC) provided approximately 5,000 rides annually. While ridership has been down significantly due to COVID, the need will likely increase as COVID concerns lessen. Up until recently TSC was also offering a bi-monthly West Lebanon bus route in collaboration with Tri-Valley Transit. This route connected Randolph, Barnard, Bridgewater, Pomfret, Woodstock, and Quechee with the final destination in West Lebanon for shopping in any of the plazas. This shopping trip was open to all ages of riders and was free to all. The Center has paused the route due to decreased numbers of riders, but they are interested in continuing to provide the service. Contact Thompson Senior Center at 802-457-3277 for more information.
With hopes of expanding on these options, Tri Valley Transit will be studying the potential for a “micro transit” program in the Woodstock area. This “micro transit” study is funded through VT Agency of Transportation (VTrans) and conducted by TVT. If implemented, the project would create a door-to-door on-demand ride service in the Woodstock area. Micro transit operates similarly to taxis or apps like Uber and Lyft, which are platforms that allow riders to connect with drivers. Instead of individuals driving their own cars, the app would connect riders to a bus or van with a professional driver. Riders could book in advance, scheduling their trip on an app or by calling TVT, and the service would be open to all ages.
Green Mountain Transit rolled out a micro transit pilot project in Montpelier in 2021, which replaced three fixed bus routes. In the case of Woodstock, estimating need will be more difficult, since we do not have an existing regional shuttle bus service. Tri Valley Transit will work with Via Strategies, a company selected to conduct feasibility studies for micro transit statewide. Via will collect data on ridership, such as where people live and what their transportation needs are. Via will also determine the potential area covered by the micro transit project–because it is focused on local rides, the area likely wouldn’t extend as far away as West Lebanon, for example.
The micro transit pilot hopes to better and more efficiently meet the needs of transit-dependent residents currently served by Thompson Senior center and Tri-Valley Transit. The program would also provide increased access to public transit for community members not eligible for existing transportation programs in the area. Studies will likely begin in the 2023 fiscal year starting in July, and will be in partnership with Tri Valley Transit, the Thompson Center, and other community members and organizations.
Photo courtesy of Tri-Valley Transit.
What can I do?
- Join Go Vermont!, run by the Vermont Agency of Transportation. Go! Vermont assists with trip planning, including bus and train schedules, carpooling options, the locations of EV charging stations, and more. Visit https://www.connectingcommuters.org/ to learn more.
- Volunteer to be a driver for Tri Valley Transit’s Dial-A-Ride Program. This is a free service for riders aged 60 or older, or living with an ADA disability. This program provides door-to-door transportation to a variety of destinations including grocery stores, medical appointments, work, errands, and social events.