Friday, January 23, 2015

Farewell from Allison Batch, S.A.V.E. AmeriCorps VISTA

Today is my final day serving as an AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of the folks I’ve been lucky enough to work with and highlight some successes from over the last year. Serving as S.A.V.E.’s Multi-Modal Transportation Coordinator opened my eyes to many of the challenges faced by people with limited mobility. I got to work with talented and motivated individuals who genuinely want to improve their community. Furthermore, I am taking away valuable job experience that has already helped me land another non-profit position in Kalispell—starting Monday!

The mission of AmeriCorps VISTA is to fight poverty in America. The program places thousands of volunteers with organizations around the country to work on projects accomplishing just that. S.A.V.E.’s Alternative Transportation Project contributes to this goal by supporting alternative transportation options. These opportunities empower individuals with access to jobs, healthcare and public services; allowing them more freedom and opportunity in their choices whether can afford to have a car or not.

I’ve witness a lot of exciting change over the last year. I worked with a number of different community groups, including Bike Walk Helena, the Helena Area Transportation Advisory Council, the Non-Motorized Travel Advisory Council, and Safe Routes to School. Through these partnerships I was able to expand Helena’s annual community bike swap, contribute to the biannual data collection of bicycle and pedestrian user counts, and help form a new coalition called the Physical Activity Stakeholder Group.

One of the big issues in transportation this year was the 2014 Update of the Helena Area Long Range Transportation Plan. Updated every 10 years, the Transportation Plan serves to guide transportation infrastructure improvements, including motorized and non-motorized modes. The consultants at Robert Peccia & Associates and Alta have worked hard over the last year to hear ideas from stakeholders and the public. Because of this input, a strong, multi-modal Transportation Plan that takes all users of the roads into account is in the works. If you haven’t gotten involved in the planning process yet and would like to, a rough draft of the plan should be available in February, with many opportunities for public comment to follow. Keep updated, view Plan documents, and send in comments at

Exciting developments are planned for the Helena Area Transit System (HATS). Lewis & Clark County has now received Round 3 of a federal grant to facilitate planning for an improved public transit system. Thus far, new bus routes have been identified to provide more frequent bus service for a broader area of Helena. New marketing improvements will accompany the new routes to make it easier for new riders to find information on how to use the service. The Helena Area Transportation Advisory Council is hopeful that these recommendations could be implemented for HATS by July 1st, 2015. See the recommended routes and more information here:

Multi-modal transportation had another success this year with the Centennial Trail breaking ground. The Centennial Trail will be an east-west non-motorized corridor through Helena, connecting Spring Meadow State Park with the East Helena trails. Construction began on the east side of Centennial Trail in the fall, and should be completed this spring. Community Transportation Enhancement Project (CTEP) funds have been dedicated to build the west side in summer 2015. If all goes well, this important non-motorized corridor could be complete by the end of next summer!

My service term marks the third year in S.A.V.E. Alternative Transportation project. I’d like to thank my two VISTA predecessors who permeably paved the way for my service, who accomplished so much work behind to scenes to help alleviate poverty and raise the quality of life in Helena. I’d especially like to thank Matthew Cramer for sticking around after his service ended to guide me through my first few days. Credit is also due to the organizations who made this VISTA position possible: Montana Legal Services for hosting the first two years of this project, and the Prevention Resource Center for adopting the final year.

Finally, I’d like to thank my supervisor and Board of Directors for empowering me over the last year and allowing me the freedom to find my passion. It’s been a great year, and I’ve learned more than I ever imagined. I’m proud that I can say I’m a S.A.V.E. VISTA alum!