In an effort to help Franklin County residents secure and keep late shift jobs, the Franklin Regional Transit Authority (FRTA) has launched a taxi service in partnership with a team of local businesses and nonprofits.
The new program will allow people with transportation difficulties to get hired and stay employed by signing up for the taxi service, according to a press release from FRTA. The signup includes a contract that can be short-term or long-term, and offers the rider free transportation for the first month of employment.
“The contract aims to help people solve a temporary problem, or create a bridge to allow users to fix or buy a car and become self-sufficient,” FRTA Assistant Administrator Michael Perreault said in the release.
The pilot program is funded by a $150,000 grant from the Metro Area Planning Council (MAPC). Perreault explained that the FRTA secured the grant by recycling a successful micro-transit proposal to the state Department of Transportation that was awarded and then withdrawn last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It became clear pretty quickly that we were not going to be able to transport people in vans due to COVID risks,” Perreault said. “The MAPC grant is allowing us to offer an individualized Uber-like service by contracting with local livery and taxi companies.”
The MassHire Franklin Hampshire Workforce Board has partnered with FRTA to reach out to multiple nonprofit partners — such as Community Action Pioneer Valley, the housing authorities, the Center for New Americans, The Literacy Project and Greenfield Community College — to advertise the new service at job fairs, social service agencies and education sites.
Meanwhile, the FRTA is drawing contracts with taxi and livery services to provide the transportation. So far, he’s in various stages of the process with four providers.
“We’re sort of the pivot point, trying to bring employees and employers, and matching them to the transportation provider,” Perreault said.
One of the taxi companies that is in talks with the FRTA to provide services is the Greenfield-based American Knight Transportation.
“They need transportation, and that’s what we do,” said owner Richard Haste. “We’re 24 hours a day, and they’re looking for second and third shift operators.”
Having a means of transportation is important for finding and holding a job, he said.
“You can’t get to work if you can’t get a bus, a train,” Haste said. “That’s our job; we get you to work.”
Although the service will be available to any late shift worker, health care and manufacturing are the two major employment sectors where second and third shift jobs take place. Because of that, the MassHire Franklin Hampshire Workforce Board recruited 10 Franklin County employers to co-sponsor the grant program.
These companies — such as Baystate Franklin Medical Center, Buckley HealthCare Center, Yankee Candle and Pelican Products, for example — are clustered in the towns of Greenfield, Montague and Deerfield, and collectively employ about 3,500 individuals.
“We’re hoping this is going to prove to be successful,” Perreault said.
Andrew Baker, special projects coordinator with the workforce board, said employment counselors and service agencies meet with many job seekers who lack transportation to get to work.
“Until people know they have a reliable way to get to and from a second and third shift job that start or ends at 11 p.m. or midnight, they tend not to apply,” Baker said. “This potential workforce will become visible and available to employers now that we can offer reliable transportation.”
Mary Byrne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne