MOOVer adds shopping route between Windsor and Claremont

The MOOver microtransit bus drives up the road after dropping off a passenger in Windsor, Vt., on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. As of Tuesday, the bus has provided 54 rides since the program began on January 23. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

The MOOver microtransit bus drives up the road after dropping off a passenger in Windsor, Vt., on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. As of Tuesday, the bus has provided 54 rides since the program began on January 23. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

By LIZ SAUCHELLI

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 01-18-2024 4:34 AM

Modified: 01-19-2024 10:35 AM


WINDSOR — Windsor residents now have access to shopping in Claremont via public transit twice a month.

MOOVer, a micro public transportation service operated by Southeast Vermont Transit, has added a route that will connect Windsor-area residents to its Route 101 Shopper Route on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. Windsor residents can schedule rides through MicroMOO, a fare-free service available to Windsor, Hartland and Weathersfield.

After MicroMOO picks up riders in Windsor, it will stop at the Interstate 91 Exit 8 park-and-ride lot in Ascutney at 10:45 a.m. to meet the Shopper, which will then make stops at Walmart, Market Basket and Hannaford in Claremont. The Shopper will drop off riders at the park-and-ride around 2 p.m. to meet the MicroMOO, which will then bring Windsor riders back home. Its first day in operation was Wednesday.

“This continues to broaden access for people with limited or no means of private transportation or who lack familial support nearby,” Amanda Jordan Smith, the program lead for Volunteers in Action at Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center, wrote in an email. “This provides people with a safe, dignified and fun way to meet their needs, age in place and maintain agency and choice regardless of income.”

Jordan Smith came up with the idea for the connection, in part because it will help assist some of the residents served by Volunteers in Action — which connects volunteers to those who need assistance in Windsor, Hartland, West Windsor, Reading, Weathersfield, Cornish and Plainfield. While the group assists residents of all ages, one of its groups of focus is older adults.

Jordan Smith also advocates “for changes that will improve their lives, particularly as it relates to accessing health care, increasing food security and reducing rural isolation,” she wrote. Access to public transportation plays a role in that, and Jordan Smith has been involved with supporting MicroMOO since it started running Monday through Friday last January.

“Following the initial rollout in Windsor, my goal was then to be able to connect all three towns from Exit 8 to Exit 9 — which is now operational,” Jordan Smith wrote. “Next, I wanted to be able to provide an opportunity for folks to access more options for groceries and household items from stores across the river, such as Market Basket, Hannaford and Walmart.”

Last fall, MicroMoo expanded its services to Hartland and Weathersfield.

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“It’s been a good move for the riders,” said Randy Schoonmaker, CEO of Southeast Vermont Transit.

While ridership in Windsor has continued to grow, it has been slower to take off in Hartland and Weathersfield. According to data provided by Schoonmaker, MicroMOO has provided 6,131 rides to residents in the Windsor area since it launched last January, with an average of 28 rides per day. Around 38% of those rides have been for personal reasons and a close second, at 28%, were for shopping. Medical was third at 19%, followed by employment, 11%; and education, 4%.

When Jordan Smith suggested connecting MicroMOO to the Shopper around a month ago, Schoonmaker thought it was a great idea and would be fairly easy to implement.

The additional stop adds less than an hour of time to the Shopper route twice a month and does not cost Southeast Vermont Transit additional money.

Windsor Town Manager Tom Marsh has been among the supporters of bringing expanded public transportation options to Windsor and has been supportive of MicroMOO’s growth, including the new connection to Claremont.

“Windsor has not had a lot of public transit options other than things like Dial a Ride,” Marsh wrote in an email, referencing programs provided by groups including Volunteers in Action that help people get to medical appointments, among other transportation needs.

“Given that Windsor has a hospital, grocery store, drug store, several large employers, close proximity to two park-and-ride stops as well as several large apartment complexes all in a compact area, it would seem like Windsor would be an ideal community for the Minimoover ‘Microtransit’ idea,” he said.

For more information and to schedule a ride on the MicroMOO, call 1-888-869-6287 from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Rides must be booked at least 24 hours in advance. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.