Come September, students may stumble upon an unfortunate surprise as they wait among campus bus stops. Pioneer Valley Transit Authority is considering eliminating several bus runs, some of which would have direct implications on the University of Massachusetts and fellow five college attendees.
According to PVTA’s May press release, the possible cuts are intended to balance out an operating budget deficit of up to $1.2 million for the coming fiscal year. The final decision on what service cuts to make is scheduled for July 19, and will be put into fruition by the end of August or early September.
Neal Abraham, Executive Director of Five Colleges, a nonprofit educational consortium, said the consortium is a long-standing partner with PVTA and the surrounding towns, insuring students can transport between the different college campuses. However, two of the set cuts will directly affect this insurance for students.
“We are disappointed that the planning is going forward abruptly,” Abraham said.
“The University is aware of the budget concerns and is committed to working with PVTA on behalf of the many members of the campus community who rely on its service,” Tony Maroulis, UMass executive director of external relations and University events, said in an article posted by UMass News and Media Relations.
According to the article, the proposed changes would affect 17 routes in the PVTA system, four of which are operated by UMass Transportation Services:
34 (Northbound Campus Shuttle) Reduce weekday service (No trips after 8 p.m.)
35 (Southbound Campus Shuttle) Reduce Saturday, Sunday and holiday services (No trips before 5 p.m.)
39 (Smith/Hampshire) Eliminate route OR Eliminate Saturday and Sunday service
46 (South Deerfield/Whately Park and Ride) Eliminate trips to Whately and South Deerfield
Other PVTA routes considered for reduction or elimination include the R29 (which travels between Mount Holyoke, Hampshire and Smith College), the B48, the Tiger Trolley and the M40 (an express run between Smith and UMass.)
According to a news release on the Five College Consortium’s website, UMass, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Amherst College and Hampshire College together pay more than $600,000 annually in support of Five College bus runs. These buses serve students, employees and community members and reduce pollution and congestion in the area, according to the release.
According to the Five College Consortium’s release, the campuses and consortium are developing approaches for arguing against route reductions, particularly against abrupt changes made after students have registered for fall classes on campuses that they will need to travel to.
Abraham met with the PVTA Administrator and testified at a public hearing in Amherst.
“Part of the appeal of UMass is the transit system that allows students to travel freely between these campuses and partake in the five college consortium,” said Margaret Gehm, a sophomore communication disorders major. “Without this method of transport, many students who don’t have cars will be left without these options.”
The Five College Consortium website stated, “if any cancellations to the Five College routes occur, the consortium will explore cost-effective alternatives to serve affected students.”
“We will do everything we can to maintain [transportation] either through PVTA or affordable alternatives,” Abraham said. “We’re hoping first that PVTA will consider to keep the routes.”
Michaela Chesin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @caeli_chesin.