MIDDLESEX COUNTY – Middlesex County officials, private and non-profit transportation providers and consumers met this week to discuss and define transportation needs in the county, and to lay out a blueprint for the continued expansion of transportation services to meet the ever changing mobility needs of County residents.
About 40 people gathered Dec. 8 at the Middlesex County Fire Academy in Sayreville to discuss the Human Service Transportation Coordination Plan for Middlesex County.
In addition to defining services, the Plan is a grassroots effort to identify ways to improve the coordinated use of transportation funding. There are more than 60 different transportation grants and funding sources provided through the federal government for transportation provided by municipalities, county agencies, and private and not-for profit transportation providers in the county.
“It is important that we utilize all of our available input and resources in order to provide the best transportation services for our residents,” said Middlesex County Freeholder H. James Polos, chair of the county’s Public Works and Transportation Committee. “It is my belief that today’s discussions will help us to better define the services we need to provide, as well as give us the ability to combine resources to make those services a reality.”
The new five-year plan is the second time the original 2007 plan has been updated. A 2009 update revised the priority schedule for the use of federal funds.
The plan fulfills the requirements of a 2004 Executive Order requiring agencies receiving federal transportation funds to develop a human service transportation plan, a process that became known as United We Ride.
Topics discussed at the forum included: the need for more consistent out-of-county transportation, particularly addressing destinations within five miles of the Middlesex border with contiguous counties; the need for an integrated fare structure between the county and NJ Transit to encourage passenger transfer activity between community transit and traditional rail and bus transit systems; and the need for updated technology tools including improved routing/scheduling, GPS and billing software to move toward a more integrated dispatching, billing and reporting system involving a broader set of community transportation providers.
Middlesex County has been operating transportation services (formerly AWTS, now MCAT) since 1975 and over the years has developed agreements and contracts with municipalities and agencies to improve the coordinated delivery of transportation services.
“The county partners with our municipalities and agencies in numerous ways to ensure we are meeting our residents’ needs with quality service,” said Freeholder Director Christopher D. Rafano. “Our transportation service has and will continue to evolve as the needs change and we thank our partners for helping us do that.”
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