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CASE STUDIES ADVANCE TRANSIT WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, VERMONT ABOUT AT AT is a nonprofit rural transit system serving communities in New Hampshire and Vermont. The system operates six regular fixed routes and four shuttle services, as well as ridesharing services for the Upper Connecti- planning commissions as well one-way trips (a 75% increase cut River Valley. All routes are as major employers. Many of in ridership in 4 years). operated on weekdays only, the board members have been and the general span of service with the system from the start The system is funded by a com- is from about 6:30 a.m. to and have significant levels of bination of federal grants (from 7:00 p.m. The core routes form a expertise that benefit the sys- Vermont and New Hampshire), triangle with transfer points in tem. They have a lot of pride in Vermont state funding, and sig- Hanover, Lebanon, and West the system, and there is a high nificant contributions from lo- Lebanon, New Hampshire (also level of trust between the board cal municipalities (tied to ser- serving White River Junction). and management. vice levels), the college, and DHMC. Of the shuttle services offered, AT has been in existence since two are in Hanover and two are 1984, first primarily as a human How Is AT Different? at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock service transportation program, Medical Center (DHMC) on and now as a fixed-route public AT is very focused on its mis- 5-10 minute headways. The system. AT has experienced sion, while taking a conserva- shuttle services are highly tremendous growth over the tive business approach to build- patronized. past 4 years as the shuttle ser- ing transit. The focus is on vice has increased. In 2002, funding for fixed-route ser- AT's board consists of 14 mem- there were more than 500,000 vices. AT prefers to operate bers representing towns and what it knows how to operate and therefore focuses on fixed routes. For example, AT is seen as an excellent way to mitigate traffic and parking problems. The town of Hanover chose to fund additional shuttle service rather than build a parking ga- rage downtown. AT is now ex- panding a route, timed to re- duce congestion due to a road construction project. AT is seen as a serious option to reduce traffic, and it has been success- ful in those efforts. AT does not operate any para- transit, preferring to leave that service to other agencies. Since 5
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CASE STUDIES ADVANCE TRANSIT WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, VERMONT AT is a nonprofit corporation, it skirts of town, AT entered into worked a number of years to is exempt from operating Ameri- negotiations with the medical secure funding for a facility, cans with Disabilities Act center to provide a shuttle ser- and in 1995 the facility was (ADA) paratransit to comple- vice. Shortly after that, AT en- built in Vermont, giving AT the ment its fixed-route services. tered into discussions with the space it needed to keep up with Management states that a num- town of Hanover and the col- the increasing demand for ser- ber of agencies provide paratran- lege. The issue was traffic con- vice. Demand is continuing, sit service to meet the needs of gestion that AT could mitigate. and 8 years later, AT finds it the community. All of AT's ve- Shuttle service has become a necessary to seek funds for ex- hicles are accessible for persons big success, and most of the panding the facility as the sys- with disabilities. funding comes from the col- tem expands (8 new 35-foot, lege, DHMC, and the town of heavy-duty transit coaches are AT is very careful about seeking Hanover. The entire system is currently on order for expan- out the types of opportunities now fare free (also supported sion). that will match its mission. First by the college, DHMC, and and foremost, management be- Hanover), which has also Why Has AT Changed? lieves that any service that AT stimulated ridership. DHMC takes on should pay for itself. requires all of its employees to In 1987, AT started on its cur- This guiding principle ensures park at a remote site and take an rent path from "hand to mouth" that AT remains financially vi- AT shuttle that operates on 5- low-ridership paratransit ser- able. minute headways during peak vice to fixed-route public trans- hours. portation with much higher rid- The Progression from the ership. The current executive Previous Role The results of these efforts have director initiated this change brought in considerable cash for when he started with the system AT started out in 1984 as a non- the system, which increases the in 1987. The system coupled profit transit service for human flexibility of the system to lev- the need to change in order to service agencies. The service erage federal operating and be effective and make a differ- was minimal, and the focus was capital dollars, often a problem ence in the community with virtually all on human service for rural transit systems. The other opportunities that began needs. In 1987, the system, short cash does not have restrictions to present themselves. AT on funds, hired the current ex- on how it can be used, adding began to address some of ecutive director, who slowly to the flexibility of these contri- the significant public transit made changes to all aspects of butions. needs in the organization. The first change was to become involved The next step was to identify · The Hanover/Lebanon area, a in the business community and capital funding so the system community with a sizeable to gain acceptance among com- could keep up with its facility population, a downtown, and munity leaders. He began devel- and vehicle needs. Management a shopping district; oping a relationship with the Chamber of Commerce, local transit management associations, each of the seven towns, and Vermont's Transportation Advi- sory Committee (TAC). The ex- ecutive director is currently the chair of the TAC, as well. The first niche that AT identified was the need for shuttle service throughout the college and in the adjacent downtown Hanover. As DHMC was moving to the out- 6
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CASE STUDIES ADVANCE TRANSIT WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, VERMONT · The college/downtown area credibility is such that the com- Maintaining Multiple that is often congested and in munity leaders turn to AT for Functions and Fiscal need of shuttle service; and solutions to congestion and Diversity parking problems. This respect · A large regional medical cen- and excellent working relation- AT has a wide variety of ser- ter that was near the down- ship allows AT to propose and vices and funding sources in town area, but has since implement new solutions to which to maintain a viable sys- moved about 3 miles away. commuter, congestion, and tem. Services include rural pub- parking issues in the Upper lic transit in two states, as well These needs had not been ad- Connecticut River Valley area. as a series of shuttles funded by dressed previously and were Dartmouth College, DHMC, identified as opportunities for Providing Effective Service and the town of Hanover. In the system. Over a period of addition, AT uses job access years, management worked with AT has found a valuable niche funding for some of its com- the community to become part in providing a high-visibility muter service. All services fo- of the solution to traffic conges- shuttle service that enjoys very cus on commuters and mitigat- tion and parking problems. This high ridership. The service pro- ing congestion and parking ultimately led to implementation vided by the blue and white problems. and expansion over the next 10 buses is well recognized by po- years. The community's needs litical, community, and business AT receives federal rural transit and the AT solution were a per- leaders. The vehicles look funding from two states, local fect match. Change was a natu- good, and the operators are pro- governmental funding, Conges- ral outgrowth of the needs and fessional. Persons of every in- tion Mitigation Air Quality the opportunities. come level use the service. (CMAQ) and Job Access fund- ing, and funding from a medical ADAPTING TO NEW The high-quality and very ef- center and a college. In addi- PARADIGMS fective services provided by AT tion, AT applies directly to the bring AT the respect and trust U.S. Department of Agriculture AT has embraced a number of necessary to be able to change (USDA) loan program for low- the new paradigms in its quest to as needed. TCRP Report 70 in- interest loans to assist with the maintain its relevance and effec- dicates that respect and trust are local match requirement for tiveness. Their successes in gen- essential elements in being able capital equipment. The diver- erating nongovernmental fund- to make change happen. sity of funding and loans helps ing, expanding service, and to keep AT financially stable making a difference in the com- Acting as Entrepreneurs even if funding is reduced in munity is in large part due to some programs. sound business practice and us- While AT is always looking for ing the new paradigms. The new new opportunities, AT manage- The USDA loan program has paradigms include the following. ment takes a very cautious busi- helped finance the local share nesslike approach to providing of capital projects. AT currently Serving as Community service. It will not take on ser- goes directly to the USDA for Agents of Change vice unless it is fully compen- low-interest loans. These loans sated and the funding is guaran- allow the system to leverage AT is very active in the commu- teed. Management carefully money and spread the payments nity, which is essential to be- analyzes opportunities and out over time, rather than coming an agent of change. funding to ensure that the plan attempt to come up with cash Over the years, AT has worked is viable. AT does not grow for all at one time--"smoothing hard to ensure success and to growth's sake; rather, it takes a out the bumps"--as explained become a part of the solution. measured and patient approach by the executive director. This Once that occurred, AT became to growth. has dramatically improved the a true agent of change, working capital planning process and closely with business, political, allows AT to purchase new and community leaders. AT's heavy-duty transit coaches for 7
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CASE STUDIES ADVANCE TRANSIT WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, VERMONT the first time. These transit- ing congestion, and mitigat- · Building Resources--AT quality buses are ultimately less ing parking problems. specializes in building re- expensive to operate. sources and generating local · Dynamic Leadership--The cash from a variety of AT has been moving to a fare- executive director of this sources. free concept for a number of nonprofit agency plays a years. At first, the Hanover por- leadership role in the Upper · Seizing the Opportunity tion of the fare-free zone was Connecticut River Valley and and Serendipity--AT al- underwritten by the town of works closely with other ways looks for opportunities Hanover, Dartmouth College, community leaders. He has to address commuter needs, Dartmouth Medical School, and excellent presentation skills as well as mitigate traffic and DHMC, while the Lebanon por- and is always seeking new parking problems. tion was underwritten by the city opportunities. of Lebanon and DHMC. Then, What Is the Result? using a CMAQ grant from the · Organizational Support-- Vermont Agency of Transporta- The board is very supportive The result of AT's efforts is a tion, all trips that started in Ver- and works well with manage- financially viable transit system mont were free and Vermont to ment. Their expertise is relied that makes a significant impact New Hampshire riders could on; however, they are careful on the quality of life in the Up- obtain a token from the driver not to micromanage. per Connecticut River Valley. for a free return ride. This fare- AT partners with towns, a col- free service also boosted rider- · Community Involvement lege, a medical center, and ship. AT's service is now totally and Communication--As other such entities to provide a fare free. described in detail, AT man- variety of well-patronized fixed agement and board are very routes and shuttle services. How Did Change Happen? involved in the community in While AT only addresses needs many ways, including spon- associated with fixed-route AT is well adapted to change. soring the Zamboni at college types of service, it is very effec- The board, management, and hockey games. tive in what it does. The system staff all expect change on a meets many of the needs of the regular basis. Management · Staff Development and community and continues to moves cautiously, but inevitably look for opportunities for ex- Motivation--Many of the toward change in order to meet pansion. However, it will con- staff have long tenure with the demands of the community. tinue to accept only those pro- the organization. It is clear AT is looked at to see how it jects that pay for themselves. from talking to staff that there adapts to change according to is a lot of pride in the organi- the following elements of AT has the full respect and trust zation. change identified in TCRP Re- of the board, staff, and manage- port 70: · Quality Service--AT's buses look good, are clean, and are very often filled with riders. Quality breeds respect, and AT has both, making change that much easier. · Focus on the Mission--AT stays focused on its mission of fixed-route public transporta- tion. It provides only this type of service, focusing on com- muter-oriented service, reliev- 8
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CASE STUDIES ADVANCE TRANSIT WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, VERMONT ment, as well as the political, business, and civic leaders of the community. AT makes a differ- ence to many people in its ser- vice area. Future Efforts Future efforts include a meas- ured approach toward growth in fixed-route service, possibly serving parts of Vermont for commuters and medical appoint- ments at the medical center. AT is receiving new 35-foot, heavy- duty transit coaches to imple- ment in some of its highly pa- tronized shuttles. AT allows for expansion of that service. Man- agement is also pursuing fund- ing for a facility expansion. AT is planning an expansion of its shopping plaza route using CMAQ funds; headways will be cut from 1 hour to 30 minutes. This expansion is timed to ad- dress construction on that route, attempting to help mitigate traf- fic congestion. AT already has an excellent track record in traf- fic mitigation. AT plans to stay involved in the community and to work with the leadership to continue improving the lives of the residents of the service area. The focus will re- main on the new paradigms. CONTACT INFORMATION Advance Transit P.O. Box 1027 Wilder, VT 05088 Van Chesnut, Executive Director (802) 295-1824 Email: email@example.com 9