Photo Credit:  David Goodman

L to R: Community Rides Vermont Executive Director Chris Cole, Capstone Executive Director Sue Minter, US Senator Peter Welch, Gopher General Manager Amanda Carlson, and Gopher Operation Supervisor Laura Brooke at Gopher’s Public Launch Celebration held on May 30, 2024 in the garage at Capstone Community Action in Barre.

2024 Celebration

US Senator Welch Addresses Crowd at Gopher’s Public Launch Party Commemorating One Year of EV Ride Services for Rural Vermonters

Community Rides Vermont, DBA Gopher held its public launch party in the garage at Capstone Community Action in Barre, Vermont on May 30, 2024, with over 80 people in attendance.

The gathering had a party atmosphere with a three-piece N’awlin’s jazz band, Back Porch Revival, setting the vibe for the early evening gathering of dignitaries, riders, stakeholders, government officials, community members, and employees. Attendees enjoyed free maple creemees by Silver Lake Syrups, and a smorgasbord of food made by Capstone’s own Community Kitchen Academy.

Sue Minter, President of the Board of Directors of Community Rides Vermont, welcomed the crowd and enthusiastically told those assembled, “This organization and service were created to fill in the gaps in public transportation that currently exist. These transportation gaps exist despite the significant investment by the State of Vermont into public transit systems statewide. Yet many individual needs of community members are underserved or not served at all, especially those in rural areas.”

Vermont United States Senator Peter Welch was the keynote speaker. In his speech, he announced a grant award that his office sought and received for Community Rides Vermont in the amount of $750,000 for the purchase or lease of a garage facility, and other capital investments needed to support the operations of Gopher.

Senator Welch said, “No one knows the needs of Vermonters better than organizations rooted in our communities. That includes organizations like Community Rides Vermont, whose innovative Gopher service works to meet the transportation needs of our rural communities. I was proud to secure a grant through the Congressionally Directed Spending process to help Gopher provide folks in underserved areas access to transportation to get them where they need to go.”

Amanda Carlson, the General Manager of Gopher, told stories of individual riders served, and the impact it has had on those individuals and their families. One story she told was about providing transport for a woman whose husband was dying, and how Gopher provided the rides that enabled her to be with him as he passed away. This story alone highlights the challenges community members face who do not have access to a vehicle compared to those that do, and reinforces the significant impact that access to one’s community can have for an individual.

Carlson went on to say, “We will be focusing our initial expansion of service to include evenings Monday through Friday, and then expanding our service hours on the weekends. We will be implementing these new service hours in the coming weeks.”

Community Rides Vermont, DBA Gopher, is a 501(C )3 Vermont not-for-profit shared mobility transportation provider that partners with Green Mountain Transit, local businesses, and community organizations primarily in the Washington County area. Gopher has a fleet of four electric SUVs and a staff of drivers. It operates three programs for free, contract, and paid rides: Mobility for All, an equity-based transportation service for low-income individuals, Contracted Service for businesses and institutions that need regular transportation services, and a Market-based Service that serves individuals like a taxi. Gopher relies on donations to help fund its non-profit program operating costs.

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