In 2006, several factors combined to make finding alternative transportation solutions a priority for the Hinesburg community including a desire for more sustainable transportation options, an interest in better coordinating and utilizing existing transportation services – such as specialized buses – and a motivated and engaged community. To best understand the community’s transportation needs, a survey was sent to all residents and a meeting of key stakeholders convened to analyze the needs, options and possible solutions. A federal “United We Ride” grant from the Vermont Agency of Transportation allowed the town to hire a consultant to conceptualize transportation solutions that would work well for the community.
Three solutions were identified, culminating in the formation of the “Hinesburg Rides” program. The primary goal of Hinesburg Rides is to minimize the number of single-passenger trips in cars and establish a connected and sustainable community.
There are three components to the program that address multiple transportation needs.
- The Volunteer Driver Program provides rides for the elderly and disabled to local appointments and errands by volunteer drivers using their own cars.
- The Rideshare Program provides opportunities for community members to share the use of a car for commuting.
- The Employer Partnership/Public Transit Program works with local businesses to facilitate low-cost, alternative commuting options for employees such as vans and carpooling, all leading to public transit.
- From 2008- 2011 the volunteer driver program provided 360 rides for 70 residents.
- The rideshare program is successfully connecting commuters and helping to reduce carbon emissions, protect the environment and reduce Hinesburg’s traffic congestion. Over 100 people were registered in the Hinesburg Rides database and are better able to find carpooling opportunities, including spontaneous ones. They have since been transferred into the statewide Go! Vermont database.
- The ‘Employer Partnership/Public Transit Program’ has worked with various Hinesburg employers and local transportation providers to get Hinesburg and surrounding towns’ residents to work. There are many elements to this successful program but, as one example, NRG Systems has committed to providing the town’s matching capital costs of obtaining two, 28-passenger buses.
- The three parts of Hinesburg Rides combine to provide sustainable and community-based transportation by offering commuters choices for getting where they need to go. With help from grants, including a Transportation Action Grant to create the website and commuter-matching database, the program manages to provide citizens with convenient sustainable transportation options at minimal cost.
- The community as a whole spends less time in single passenger car trips, which decreases harmful emissions.
- Hinesburg Rides also helped to catalyze a new commuter line that runs along Route 116 from Middlebury to Burlington and will be celebrating its fifth anniversary in April 2017.
Keys to Success or Lessons Learned:
- Hinesburg Rides receives essential financial support from SCHIP (Shelburne, Charlotte, Hinesburg Interfaith Projects) grants, the town, and private donations.
- While it is hard to get people to change their behavior and carpool or take the bus, persistence pays off.
- If you create a program that is easy to use, affordable and convenient, people will take advantage of it.
- Heavy marketing is key to ensure the public knows the program is available.
- The success of the volunteer driver program is based on the wonderful volunteers.
- It is also key to have the support of the town, as well as the support of other transportation providers, employers, and the community.