ST. ALBANS – In addressing the challenge of food insecurity, the roads and tracks that bring food to those in need can be as important as the food itself.
That’s why, when they convened Monday afternoon, the Franklin – Grand Isle Hunger Council’s topic of the day was transportation, a particular challenge for delivering food in the spread-out small towns of both counties.
“Every meeting we have, transportation comes up, whether it’s how we transport food or how we transport people,” said Catherine Dimitruk, the executive director of the Northwest Regional Planning Commission and a co-chair of the Hunger Council. “It’s something you deal with on a daily basis.”
According to Dimitruk, the state’s regional planning commissions track their respective regions’ successes in meeting a statewide transportation goal: that Vermont “provide accessible, safe, efficient, interconnected, secure, equitable and sustainable mobility choices for our region’s businesses, residents and visitors.”
Those goals, in effect, measure people’s use of alternative modes of transportation, like bike paths or bus routes, modes considered more economically and ecologically efficient than personal vehicle use.
The region’s success in meeting those goals, according to Dimitruk, was anchored to gas prices. “Most trends are looking good when gas prices are high and bad when gas prices are low,” she said.
The reason, according to Dimitruk, is that if gas prices were higher, residents and visitors might be more inclined to ride a bus or walk to their destination. Lower gas prices, however, translate to car-owners relying on their personal vehicles.
Access to alternative transit varies between towns, and individual towns are partially responsible for funding approximately 20 percent of the cost of commuter routes in Vermont, according to VTrans Regional Coordinator Ross MacDonald.
For a handful of the state’s transit providers, at least some of that 20 percent might be matched by a resort or a hospital instead of a particular municipality, MacDonald said.
Find the full story in Wednesday’s Messenger. Click here to subscribe.