Josh Rickman

This week's Gateway Cities Leader


Josh Rickman is the Manager of Operations and Planning at the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, the largest regional transit authority in Massachusetts serving 24 member communities.

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Since you started at the PVTA, what has been your biggest accomplishment?

My biggest accomplishment so far is the implementation of our comprehensive service analysis, which led to some major changes to our service. The analysis was state mandated for all regional transit authorities, but PVTA initiated ours six months before state came down with policy. I was at the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission at the time and helped foster the plan, then came over to the PVTA in 2014 when the changes began.

The changes took effect in late August 2014, when the schools came back in session. We wanted to put up the new service when our largest audience was back. This year, we broke 12 million passengers for the first time since 2001. That was big for us. We hadn’t had that ridership since 2001 because of budget cuts. This year, the state provided additional funding and we went back to providing full service.

Before, we had more of a spoke and hub model. Now, have two crosstown buses in Springfield that connect people directly without having to go into downtown. The city of Springfield also has a lot of food deserts. The X90, one of the inner city crosstown buses, provides one seat rides to many shopping opportunities, so people have reliable, Monday to Sunday opportunities to get to their grocery shopping.

We also streamlined a lot of routes. They had deviations and didn’t have identical stops in both directions, so in terms of schedule legibility, it was hard for people to understand. The new service streamlined many routes and made them the same in both directions.

Have you heard what riders think of the changes?

We’ve had lot of positive feedback about the new changes. Before, we heard riders asking for more frequent buses. Now, there are more positive comments.

What’s next?

The next step is to introduce performance guidelines for all of our routes. For example, are the buses carrying the expected passenger volumes? We know that now some buses are carrying more than their expected volume, so we need to respond to that. We’re asking how we can continue to invest in this corridor and  attracting new riders onto the system. The performance guidelines will give us a blueprint to move the system forward.

Another major project is the bus rapid transit analysis for the State Street corridor. We’ve identified that corridor, currently served by the B7 route, as the best place to introduce BRT. It’s our strongest route, serving 5,500 people a day, and it’s utilized all day long. There are a mix of institutions along corridors, so people are going to school, to work, to shop, back home. We don’t see one peak. We’re looking into giving it a dedicated line, signal priority, and special shelters. It’s a great project for Springfield and Pioneer Valley that speaks to the way we’re progressing as agency as a whole.

What drives your passion for public transit?

I started my career in city planning, and I’ve always been interested in the movement of people. I believe that roadways and infrastructure are vital to the overall growth of the economy. As we have more going on in the Massachusetts area, it’s important to consider all alternatives to cars. Public transit is one of the best ways of ensuring people move down the road. It’s an environmentally friendly way that we see younger people moving towards using. Ensuring reliable transit can improve and connect communities. If you look at areas where people have embraced public transit, you see stronger communities and stronger economies.

Living in Holyoke and working in Springfield, what do you appreciate about the cities?

They are two beautiful cities. They both have such great bones and culture behind them. The culture and institutions in the valley create a strong foundation to move service and transit forward. There are great transit services that provide people higher quality of life and create the potential for development of the downtown areas. We have the Connecticut River, the mountains, and other natural resources. It speaks to the younger generation that wants to live densely but enjoy their surroundings.

What are some of the challenges you come up against?

In Pioneer Valley, we don’t have as many traffic disincentives. We don’t have as much congestion as a city like Boston has. So for us, attracting people that have a car in their driveway to our services is a challenge. We call them choice riders.We need to show people that we’re reliable and easy to use. The Interstate 91 viaduct construction project will really be the first major disincentive I’ve seen in the region for travel. It’s our first major opportunity to show off the system. We’re expanding our marketing to help commuters understand that they can use PVTA to get around the  region.

How do you get to work?

I carpool with my fiance or take the P11 from Holyoke Community.

Meet The Author

Ashira Morris

Marketing and Development Assistant, MassINC

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