Over the past several years, city staff, volunteers and partners who make up the Salem For All Ages Task Force have been evaluating and developing multiple programs, projects and services with the goal of establishing additional transportation options as well as improving the overall safety and accessibility for all users traveling in the city. The following is a summary of this ongoing work some of which the city hopes to implement in the upcoming year.
Last winter, Salem was awarded a grant from the Massachusetts Office on Disability (MOD) to assess the city’s current level of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and develop an ADA transition plan that identifies and prioritizes any needed improvements. The city hired a consultant to perform the assessment and draft the plan which involved evaluating city programs, services and activities as well as inspecting city-owned facilities including City Hall, the police and fire stations, public schools and multiple parks and playgrounds.
The assessment began this past April and is scheduled to conclude at the end of the year following a presentation of the plan during a Commission on Disabilities meeting on Dec. 17 at the Community Life Center. Moving forward, the Salem for All Ages Accessible Public Infrastructure Subcommittee will work with the Commission on Disabilities and pertinent city departments to begin addressing the identified improvements in the plan as well as apply for additional available grants.
City staff have also been working with a consulting firm to inspect and evaluate the city’s roadway network in order to assist with the development of a pavement management program. This program will allow the city to create a multi-year prioritized plan that will result in a more proactive approach. The effort included an assessment of every single pedestrian crosswalk ramp as well as a sidewalk inventory of the downtown, Salem State University, the Point neighborhood area and the Derby Street corridor including side streets between Essex Street and the harbor. City staff who serve on both the Accessible Public Infrastructure and Transportation subcommittees have begun evaluating the conditions of the sidewalks along these roadways to determine if sidewalk repairs are needed and when feasible will schedule the sidewalk work prior to the roadway work.
Moving forward, both subcommittees will work with the Commission on Disabilities and pertinent city departments to explore the feasibility of conducting an assessment of the entire sidewalk network so the city may develop a similar prioritized maintenance plan that will be coordinated with the roadway program.
In 2018, the city was awarded a $30,000 grant from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation and conducted a shuttle feasibility study. Following its completion, a consulting firm was hired to perform a market analysis and service assessment in order to identify and evaluate a variety of shuttle alternatives, including fixed-route and on-demand ride share services. Based on the findings, the city is moving forward with efforts to establish an on-demand ride share service. City staff have recently submitted a grant application to the state Department of Transportation to assist with the funding of the service. In addition, a request for proposals (RFP) was recently released seeking bids from vendors who provide this type of service.
Over the past year, the city has been exploring the possibility of establishing a community car share service that would provide an opportunity for residents who may not own a vehicle to rent one on an hourly basis. Staff have been investigating a model where the city purchases or leases multiple vehicles that are strategically located throughout the city and made available to the public to book trips via a web-based platform. An RFP was released this past September seeking vendors to operate the online platform as well as oversee the management of a fleet of 10-12 city-owned vehicles. Staff are completing their evaluation of the vendor submissions as well as continuing to investigate vehicles for leasing.
David Kucharsky is the director of traffic and parking for the city of Salem and chair of the Salem For All Ages Transportation subcommittee.