PVTA budget deficit leads to eliminated routes and raised prices

Eighteen UMass routes affected


(Collegian file photo)

By Kathrine Esten, Assistant News Editor

The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority has proposed bus service cuts in the University of Massachusetts area, to take effect July 1.

The PVTA, which is based in Springfield, is facing a $3.1 million budget deficit in the 2019 fiscal year, following underfunding from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s budget, as reported previously by the Massachusetts Daily Collegian.

Route cutbacks affecting Amherst include extending “reduced service” periods and decreasing the frequency of buses and eliminating poor-performing routes, as well as decreasing Saturday and holiday service to match Sunday service. 18 proposed route cuts directly affect UMass.

UMass News&Media Relations announced that the “campus community has until March 14 to [make] its voice heard on bus service cuts.”

Campus-connected routes affected include the elimination of Route 46 (South Deerfield / Whately Park & Ride / UMass) and the decrease in Route B43 express trips (Northampton/ Hadley/ Amherst), among other changes.

Additional proposals, including a 25 percent increase in fares and pass prices, do not directly affect Five College students who ride on the majority of routes for free. However, this fee increase will impact students who ride any of the red “R” routes, which provide service to Florence, Springfield and the Holyoke Mall, among others.

At a March 1 hearing, held in the Murray D. Lincoln Campus Center at UMass, Massachusetts legislators discussed the 2019 budget. Outside, dozens of students gathered in protest of the budget proposals.

Mount Holyoke News covered the protest and explained that activists considered “the issue of transportation to go arm in arm with issues of racial justice, social justice and environmental concerns.”

Patrick Burke, of Northampton, told 22News, “PVTA is something people use to get to work, go to medical appointments, pick up their kids to just really live and go about their lives, so this is something that’s going to impact thousands of people.”

Public comments may be submitted until March 14, by mail, email, phone or through the PVTA online comment form before a final decision on the proposals is made in April.

In the case that the Massachusetts Congress allocates more money to public transit, such as the PVTA, prior to their July 1 official budget, PVTA officials have said they have plans to reinstate certain services that an increased budget would allow.

Evan Kuras, a UMass graduate student who relies on the PVTA to get to campus, told the Greenfield Recorder that the proposed cuts would impact people’s ability to live and work in the region.

“I take the bus so I can get my education here and do my research,” Kuras said. “We need transit so people can live and work in the region and come to school here, go to lectures here and involve themselves in the community here. It’s essential.”

Kathrine Esten can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @KathrineEsten.