Paula Pascoe, who runs the Suffield Mini Bus program as well as the Senior Center, welcomed the arrival of Mini Bus No. 19, which would allow No. 16 to be retired soon, and the fleet will stay at its customary three buses and three sedans. The new bus, like the others, is built on a Ford chassis. It’s a Ford Transit 350HD with a Diesel engine, the first in the fleet.
Along with Tami Zawistowski and a few others, all the drivers gathered around on arrival day, October 25, admiring the new features of No. 19. There’s plenty of headroom, and a center aisle runs back between one-and-two seating in three rows to the lift at the rear and the space for two wheelchairs. Like all new vehicles, there are plenty of electronic features. One that was surprising to this observer was the rear-view mirror, which isn’t a mirror at all; it’s a video screen providing the wide-angle view from a camera at the rear. The engine, mounted in front, is so compact that the driver can almost see the front bumper.
The current Town Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2018 described the Mini Bus service as having traveled over 81,000 miles that year providing over 14,000 transports with one full-time transportation coordinator (who also drives) and four part-time drivers with various schedules. Director Pascoe advised that none of the busses are paid from Town taxes. For this bus, the $64,213 cost was supported largely by a competitive grant won from the Federal Transit Administration’s Section 5310 Program. The remainder came from the Town’s Mini Bus Reserve Fund, established to accept donations for this purpose.
The service is available to any Suffield resident age 60 and up plus individuals over 18 with a disability, for trips to adult day care, the Senior Center, medical appointments, shopping, banks, pharmacies, and special trips (commonly scheduled for groups). A yearly donation is requested from passengers.