Springfield mayor announces free transportation to senior center

Hampden County

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Springfield seniors found out they can soon expect free pickup and transportation to the senior center. 

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno told members of the Raymond A. Jordan Senior Center starting October 15, they’ll have free van service if they can’t afford the bus service to and from the senior center. 

“There were some that still need some access, so I wanted to make sure they were able to utilize,” said Mayor Sarno. 

617MediaGroup sent 22News the statement below:

This plan announced by the mayor today is woefully inadequate. It fails to address the need for Seniors across the city of Springfield to have an affordable transportation option to access the new Ray Jordan senior center.

Mayor Sarno and his administration could have offered a permanent, cost-effective solution that offers Seniors the respect and dignity they deserve and enables them to keep living healthy, independent lives. But instead, city leaders have chosen an expensive, ineffective, temporary patchwork of services that will not accomplish a very simple goal: transporting Seniors — including low-income Seniors — to the healthy food and services they need.

Sarno has once again offered an unworkable solution — the new bus replacing the Golden Age bus that is no longer safe to operate. This bus is for occasional trips and does not serve Seniors on a reliable, weekly schedule to access the Senior Center. We need affordable transportation options that can transport Seniors to and from their homes and the senior center week in and week out.

Also, a plan that costs Seniors $4 roundtrip, plus the daily cost of lunch at the Senior Center of $3.50, does not address the needs of Seniors on a limited fixed income.

Tomorrow marks two years since Springfield Seniors first took to the steps of City Hall after learning their neighborhood Senior Center was closing with just two weeks’ notice. It has been nearly a year since Springfield Seniors requested a meeting with Mayor Sarno to raise concerns about the lack of affordable transportation to and from the Senior Center, as well as the high cost of meals.

Following more than six months of meetings with Commissioner Helen Caulton Harris and Director Sandy Fredrico,  the city offered no plan for how to address this unmet need.

There are cost-effective solutions out there – and MSAC has presented a model plan to Mayor Sarno, based on Worcester’s program. The City of Worcester subsidizes WRTA transportation so that seniors pay more than a $1 round trip. They also partnered with their housing authority to secure a block grant to provide transportation to all Senior housing residences. Their annual budget is 14,000 a year, and they spend about half that budget while providing nearly 7000 trips.

If the city of Springfield wants to live up to its age-friendly status then they should start working with and respecting the seniors who have brought this issue to the forefront. It’s time for real solutions.

Julie Donnelly, Vice President, Public Relations of 617MediaGroup

The mayor told the seniors about an agreement he’s reached with the Springfield Partnership for Community Action to pick up passengers at three sites in the city; Mason-Wright Apartments, Pine Point and Forest Park.

Some seniors, who live in different neighborhoods, were unhappy with the limited pickup sites. 

“We tell him we need bus service to sixteen acres,” said Vivian Moulton of Springfield. “We have elders out there also.” 

But Emerson Wright resident, Lorraine Babij welcomes the free van service. 

Babij said, “Well if I had my choice, I would go shopping, everybody has to go shopping for me.” 

Mayor Sarno said he hopes the temporary van service helps some seniors until a bus, specially outfitted for seniors with disabilities, is ready for service sometime in the next few months. 

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