The primary purpose of the Coordinated Public Transit–Human Services Transportation Plan (Coordinated Plan) is to improve coordination among transportation providers to better meet the transportation needs of seniors and people with disabilities. It guides applicants in the Boston region in developing their proposals for the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Section 5310, Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Program. In Massachusetts this program is known as the Community Transit Grant Program (CTGP). The CTGP provides funding for projects that meet the transportation needs of seniors and people with disabilities when existing transportation services are unavailable, insufficient, or inappropriate to meet these needs.
As the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for the Boston area regional planning association, the Boston Region MPO develops the Coordinated Plan for the 97 municipalities within its region. Figure ES-1 shows the municipalities within the MPO region.
Municipalities in the Boston Region MPO
In Massachusetts, the state Department of Transportation manages the application process for the CTGP, which is a competitive grant program with an annual application process. Organizations eligible to apply for CTGP funding include local government, private nonprofit organizations, and public transit operators—the Massachusetts Department of Transportation may also use 5310 funding to administer and implement state-prioritized projects. This 2023 update to the Coordinated Plan replaces the MPO’s 2019 Coordinated Plan and should be referred to in CTGP applications beginning with the state fiscal year 2025 application cycle.
To be considered for CTGP funding, projects located within the MPO region must address a transportation need, strategy, or action identified in chapter four of this Coordinated Plan. Table ES-2 (Table 4-2 in chapter 4 in the main document) lists the human service transit needs for the region, as well as strategies and actions to meet those needs; a proposed project that addresses the needs, strategies, or actions that would be considered “included” in the Coordinated Plan. Given the large and diverse nature of the Boston region, the transportation needs, strategies, and actions described in this Coordinated Plan are broad in order to elicit a range of project proposals that are likely to address unmet human service transportation needs.
Projects eligible for the CTGP include both traditional capital projects and nontraditional projects. Traditional capital projects include the purchase or lease of vehicles for human service transportation that are carried out to meet the special transportation needs of seniors and people with disabilities when public transit is insufficient, inappropriate, or unavailable, as well as support facilities like benches and shelters. Nontraditional projects can include volunteer driver programs, wayfinding, and travel training, among others.
There are a wide variety of public transit services in the Boston region, which can be explored in more detail in this interactive web map. These include
Public transit—both human service transportation and transit that serves the general population—in the Boston region can often be disconnected, especially outside of the immediate Boston area. Services are run by many different transit providers, with their own fares, eligibility requirements, and service areas. These may or may not be coordinated with other providers with adjacent services, sometimes leading to long wait times, high fares, or simply the inability to reach a particular part of the region at all by public transit. These challenges are magnified in towns further from Boston, as the public transit network is more limited in these areas, despite the often many seniors and people with disabilities who live there. Improved coordination of services and closing the gaps in existing services, through funding such as the CTGP, is critical for addressing the unmet human service transportation needs in the Boston region.
Understanding current and future demographics of seniors and people with disabilities helps identify gaps in services and communities where transportation needs may be highest. In the Boston MPO Region, 16 percent of people are 65 or older, while 10 percent have a disability. There is significant overlap between these populations: nearly 50 percent of seniors have a disability. These populations are expected to increase in the coming decades—demographic projections from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute suggest that by 2050, about 20 percent of the population will be aged 65 or older. This is a 37 percent increase over the 2020 population, compared to a 10 percent increase for the total population in the MPO region. While demographic projections for people with disabilities are not available, it is reasonable to assume that this population will increase as the senior population does so.
To help identify unmet human service transportation needs, MPO staff conducted extensive public engagement to get input from seniors and people with disabilities, people who work with these populations, and human service transportation providers. Staff used this input to then develop strategies and actions that transportation providers in the region could undertake to address these needs and identified those that might be priorities for the Boston region.
Public engagement was conducted concurrently with engagement for the development of the MPO’s 2023 Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), Destination 2050, during which staff collected input about transportation needs and priorities in the region. Most engagement activities during the development of the LRTP and the Coordinated Plan between 2019 and 2023 were conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Staff also conducted several engagement activities focused directly on the Coordinated Plan to collect input. These included meetings with Regional Coordinating Councils; discussions focused on human service transportation needs with the MPO’s Transit Working Group and Advisory Council; a human service transportation coordination workshop with councils on aging, disability commissions, and transit providers; and a survey about human service transportation needs.
The survey—which was distributed to organizations that work with seniors and people with disabilities, human service transportation providers, and the general public, with a focus on getting input from these populations—was conducted in spring of 2023. Respondents were asked to identify their top human service transportation needs and select the top strategies that would help meet those needs. This was asked across four categories: infrastructure, public transit, coordination, and education improvements. The four most commonly selected strategies were
Respondents were then asked to rank their selected strategies from highest to lowest priority. The two most frequently selected strategies from each category are shown in Figure ES-2—the darkest blue indicates when a strategy was most frequently ranked in that category.
Ranking of Strategies to Improve Human Services Transportation
ADA = Americans with Disabilities Act.
Transportation needs and strategies and actions to address them that were identified through public engagement were grouped into the following topic areas:
Table ES-1 shows the needs, strategies, actions, and resources to support them by topic area.
Unmet Human Service Transportation Needs and Strategies for Improvement
ADA = Americans with Disabilities Act. COA = councils on aging. LEP = limited English proficiency. RTA = regional transit agency. TNC = transportation network company.
1 While funding of benches and shelters are allowed under federal 5310 guidelines, as a practice, it is not part of the state Community Transit Grant Program. Other funding opportunities that may support these are listed in table 4-3 or may seek support from their regional transit authority.
While this Coordinated Plan does not attempt to dictate which strategies and actions should receive funding, it does describe priorities for the Boston region based on how frequently needs were identified during the public engagement process to support the development of applications for CTGP. More than one-half of all comments received spoke of transportation service improvements, with the next most common topic areas infrastructure improvements and inter-agency coordination. Some of the key takeaways from this input include
This Coordinated Plan updates and replaces the Boston Region MPO’s 2019 Coordinated Plan starting with the state fiscal year 2025 CTGP grant cycle. This document will be updated again in four years in concert with the Boston MPO’s next planned LRTP update, per federal guidance.