Published in the October 12, 2017 edition


NORTH READING — The town’s senior citizens and disabled veterans of any age will have a ride sharing program to take them to medical appointments for a nominal fee by the end of this month.

Called Ring and Ride, the transportation program is provided by the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA), stated Selectmen Chairman Mike Prisco during his report updating Town Meeting attendees of the progress made by the town’s Economic Development Committee on this initiative.

“We want to start slow and see how the program works and see how many people take advantage of the opportunity to use the service,” Prisco said, adding that workshops would be held at the Senior Center and possibly Town Hall, and information would also be posted on the town’s website. An informational brochure has also been created.

(Note: after Town Meeting, the date of the first informational meeting was finalized for Monday, October 23 at 2 p.m. at the Edith O’Leary Senior Center located on the first floor of the Third Meeting House on the common.)

Seniors are defined as anyone 60 years or older. If the program meets with success, it could be expanded for other transportation needs for this population.

Prisco explained that rides are shared and fees are charged for a one-way trip. A door to door upon is available upon request during the reservation process. Rides are arranged through reservation only by calling the MVRTA’s Special Services office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Reservations must be made a minimum of 24 hours in advance but can be requested up to two weeks in advance of the appointment, he said.

The rides are available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays (excluding holidays) and riders are given a 30-minute window for pick-up.

MVRTA has created five service zones for the town, Zones A through E, with fees ranging from free for in-town rides (Zone A) to a maximum of $5 for one-way service to Boston, Bedford and Jamaica Plain (Zone E).

The other towns accessible through Ring and Ride are:

• Zone B – Andover, North Andover, Middleton, Lynnfield, Wilmington, Reading: $2.

• Zone C – Woburn, Stoneham, Danvers, Peabody, Wakefield: $3.

• Zone D – Burlington, Winchester, Melrose: $4.

“We will have ticket books available. Where we will be selling those we will let you know at the workshops,” Prisco said, adding, “MVRTA has acquired new vans. They are making sure the staff that they are hiring to support the town of North Reading are fully trained and familiar with the town before we get it started.”

“It’s a great opportunity for the town and I look forward to seeing it get started,” Prisco said. Judging by the applause he received by Town Meeting attendees, the voters agree it is a worthwhile service that will fill a void that currently exists in the town’s transportation options.

Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto subsequently told the Transcript that development of the Ring and Ride program has been in the works for many months. A state Community Compact grant of $5,000 enabled the town to hire a consultant to assist the town in evaluating the town’s transportation needs. Another benefit of participating in this program is that it may help reduce the town’s annual MBTA assessment fee, Gilleberto said, which is currently about $102,000 annually.