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Editorial: Be heard on bus service

An opportunity is open for Franklin County residents to be heard when it comes to their wishes and opinions on local bus service.

The message that should be delivered, we think, is quite simple: Weekend, nighttime and more frequent service ... from Orange to Charlemont, from Northfield to Sunderland.

That’s not exactly a new message. Such sentiment has been expressed to the Franklin Regional Transit Authority, the agency charged with overseeing public bus transportation, for years now. And the response has been the same as well: the FRTA doesn’t have enough money to expand what it’s providing.

Maybe this time it will be different.

The FRTA and the Franklin Regional Council of Governments are holding these series of public meetings — beginning Monday at the Great Falls Discovery Center and then at the transit center in Greenfield on May 14, the Shelburne-Buckland Community Center on May 19 and the Orange Armory on May 20 — as a way to provide information for a service analysis of the regional transit system here, as well as the others in the state. This study, done by consultants hired by the state, as well as one done by the FRTA, will be presented to the Legislature, which holds the purse strings for public transportation.

“Over the last few years, there’s been a significant uptick in demand for public transportation and subsequently pressure on the Legislature to provide more funding,” says Maureen Mullaney, the COG’s transportation planning manager. “We’re hoping that people share with us their vision for transportation in the region, which we can then feed back to the consultant.”

We think the message that people can give back is that bus transportation has to be timely and convenient, beginning with scheduling buses frequently between the places people want or need to get to for work, school, shopping, etc.

You’re not going to get people to ride the bus, if for example, they can take the bus from Greenfield to Amherst for work, only to find there isn’t a bus back when they’re ready to go home. The same problem exists for someone making a shopping trip who isn’t interested in hanging out for hours while waiting for a bus to make a return trip.

Something has to give here, and to see any kind of bus service during the evening or weekends, it’s the Legislature that will have to be moved to provide more money.

Therefore, whether you ride the bus now or not, we urge Franklin County residents to take advantage of these meetings to make their voices heard.

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