Montague: FRTA schedule changes not helping town
MONTAGUE — The town selectmen this week reaffirmed opposition to elements of the Franklin Regional Transit Authority’s proposed new bus schedule.
Opponents maintain the plan is detrimental to Montague, while the FRTA maintains the plan is designed for the needs of the county as a whole, not Montague.
“The bottom line is we’re trying to create more service for everyone. These changes aren’t just for the residents of Montague,” FRTA Administrator Tina Cote said in an earlier interview.
Town administrators, officials and a group of primarily Montague Center residents oppose the plan on the grounds that it will decrease service to Amherst.
Town Planner Walter Ramsey said the most significant changes in the new plan, as it affects Montague, are a doubling in service to Orange and a slashing of service to Amherst.
“What we’re getting out of this deal is better connections to Orange, roughly the same to Greenfield, and much un-improved access to Amherst,” Ramsey said. “I guess the question would be: Why Orange?”
Town Administrator Frank Abbondanzio said a major reason for regional public transportation is for work commuters and Amherst is the primary employment center for town residents.
“Orange, I don’t think we have many people headed there; maybe from there for our industrial park,” Abbondanzio said.
“I know it seems odd that a lot of people are going into Orange from Turners Falls and vice-versa, but that’s what we’ve been seeing,” Cote said.
Among other changes countywide, the Transit Authority plans to eliminate Route 23, which stops in Montague on the way to Amherst, citing high cost and low ridership. Defenders of the route say ridership is low because ticket prices are high.
Montague Center resident Jeffrey Singleton said the FRTA has effectively priced itself out of the market with $3 tickets one-way, compared to $1.50 for the route to Northampton.
FRTA Assistant Administrator Michael Perreault said that in looking at the service as a whole they found they were duplicating services in many areas, and the new schedule is an effort to trim redundancies and simplify the schedule with an hourly timetable.
“A lot of what we’re looking at is streamlining our services. What we would have was buses leaving on the same route within 10 to 15 minutes of each other,” Perreault said.
“We’re pretty confident that what we’ve done here is set things up so we can serve people in a better way, and set things up for the future so we can at least consider Saturday service,” Perreault said.
Cote stressed the new schedule would contain service to Amherst.
Abbondanzio said he did not think Montague residents would use the planned new route to Amherst, which would require taking a bus to Greenfield, another to South Deerfield and from there connecting to a Pioneer Valley Transit Authority bus into Amherst.
Abbondanzio said this effectively eliminates Amherst service for Montague residents.
Montague Center resident Arlene Jigarjian said her current commute to her Amherst College job would now require her to catch four buses, and worried this will be impossible with unpredictable winter traffic. Jigarjian asked why the FRTA has not considered the petition, which she said has garnered about 150 signatures, for a two-bus solution with an FRTA route through Montague to Sunderland to connect with a PVTA bus there.
Perreault said the FRTA did receive the petition, but considered the current proposal the most efficient and effective for the region.
Selectman Michael Nelson asked if it would be possible to delay eliminating the route for a year, to observe the impact on ridership from the Montague Center School redevelopment. The developer proposes to install 22 apartments, with an eye to the graduate student and Amherst university employee markets.
Nelson said direct bus access could be a big enticement for renters.
“It would be great if this was intact while we are working on this project,” Nelson said.
Perreault said the issue could be revisited if things change.
The eventual motion adopted by the selectmen reaffirmed the board’s desire to keep Route 23 and encouraged the FRTA to delay cancellation for a year.
The public comment period ends Nov. 22. Perreault said all feedback will be brought to an FRTA Advisory Board meeting for a final decision, likely in early December.
Comments can be mailed to the FRTA at 12 Olive St., Greenfield, MA 01301 or submitted online at www.frta.org/contact_us.html, or emailed to Michael@frta.org.
You can reach Chris Curtis at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257