MAST: At the Helm for the Region’s Sustainable Transportation Efforts

carsharing2Originally Published in the Monadnock Shopper News

This month, Monadnock Buy Local gathered a list of businesses, organizations and initiatives strengthening Sustainable Transportation efforts in our region.  One initiative that came up again and again was the Monadnock Alliance for Sustainable Transportation, a.k.a. MAST.

MAST is a volunteer-driven alliance working to bring a better transportation future to our region.  MAST’s vision includes each of us spending more time interacting with others and less time alone in a vehicle.  MAST works to buoy transportation options that enhance the environmental and economic health of our region and the physical health and wellbeing of community members.  Simply put, MAST wants to offer you healthier options for getting around.

“The group recognizes the broad impact that our transportation system has on us as individuals and as communities — everything from employment, to our cost of living and our health,” said Henry Underwood of Southwest Region Planning Commission and MAST Steering Committee Coordinator.

MAST is looking for volunteers passionate about transforming transportation in the Monadnock Region.  Here’s a review of three initiatives MAST plans to tackle in 2017 and an invitation for you to get involved.

Go For the Gold: Bicycle Friendly Community

The City of Keene is one of four “Bicycle Friendly Communities” in New Hampshire.  A Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) welcomes and encourages bicycling with infrastructure (paths and bike lanes), educational programs (Safe Routes to School) and policies (Complete Streets). While MAST is proud that our city achieved a Bronze BFC status in 2015, we’ve set our sites on reaching a higher status in 2017 — let’s go for the Silver… or better yet, the GOLD!

“The League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) program is a tool for communities to make bicycling a real transportation and recreation option for all people,” shared Henry.

MAST volunteers plan to assist city staff with Keene’s BFC application by gathering data and garnering support for programs or practices that help boost our city to a higher status.  Discover more at bikeleague.org/community.

Carsharing

MAST recently published a report that collected background information, case studies and next steps for developing a carsharing program in Keene.  Carsharing allows an individual to rent a car for short periods of time — by the minute or hour, instead of by the day.

Imagine you plan to bike to work, but suddenly remember you have a midday meeting across town.   Normally, you’d skip the bike ride and take the car — but with a carsharing program in Keene, you can ride your bike to work and reserve a car through the carshare program to get to your meeting.  Ride your bike to that central location, where the carshare is parked, and off you go.

Since the cost of carsharing is much lower than private car ownership, carsharing can bring more mobility to those who need a vehicle for only occasional trips.  If we built up our carsharing fleet with hybrid or electric cars, we’d also lower our community’s vehicle emissions — a goal in the City of Keene’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

“Carsharing is a transportation option that offers the benefits of having a car without the cost or hassle of private ownership,” added Henry.  “In 2017, MAST will work with community partners to determine the feasibility of carsharing in Keene and the Monadnock Region.”

Learn more at carsharing.org.

Bike to Work Day in May

MAST and the City of Keene plan to host a Bike to Work Day event in May.  Last year, bicyclists, walkers and transit riders stopped by Railroad Square in Downtown Keene to listen to a proclamation by Keene Mayor Kendall Lane, participate in a Complete Streets Workshop and enjoy a free commuter breakfast, as well as a variety of giveaways.  This year, we’re looking for volunteer energy to expand and energize this event.

Bike to Work Day is part of a national month-long celebration sponsored by The League of American Bicyclists to promote bicycle commuting.

“From fashion shows to group rides, local groups find unique ways to celebrate their diverse bike cultures and community pride,” states The League of American Bicyclists website.  “Whether you bike to work or school; ride to save money or time; pump those pedals to preserve your health or the environment; or simply enjoy exploring your community, National Bike Month is an opportunity to celebrate the unique power of the bicycle and the many reasons we ride.”

Get rolling at bikeleague.org/bikemonth.

Monadnock Buy Local supports the work of MAST and believes its work is integral to building a stronger Local Living Economy — one that is more local, green and fair. We serve on MAST’s Steering Committee and invite more individuals, businesses and organizations to climb aboard.  Contact Henry Underwood at hunderwood@swrpc.org or visit the MAST website at www.MASTNH.org.

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