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Four Rivers parents fuel drive for expanded bus service

SHELBURNE — Some area school parents are hoping the bus will meet them halfway.

Families of children at Greenfield’s Four Rivers Charter Public School were the latest to speak out in an ongoing series of forums aimed at improving the service of the Franklin Regional Transit Authority’s bus routes as the agency seeks to secure additional funding.

“Our school has 42 students from the hilltowns, who are all potential (FRTA) riders,” said Carol DeLorenzo, of Shelburne Falls, during a Monday afternoon forum at the Shelburne Buckland Community Center. “We carpool, but a good percentage of us would be happy to stop driving to and from the school.”

DeLorenzo and other Four Rivers parents are advocating for a route that would help the school’s hilltown families cut down on their daily driving. They’ve even put together a proposed schedule.

A bus could leave Charlemont Center at 7 a.m., and arrive at Four Rivers at 7:50, on the way to the John W. Olver Transit Center, in time for the 8 a.m. start of the school day.

They said it would also benefit Greenfield Community College students, since the first bus of the day arrives at GCC at 8:30 a.m., a half-hour after the first class starts.

Two buses from Four Rivers back to Charlemont could bring kids home, leaving the school at 3:15 and 5:15 p.m., serving both those leaving right after class, and those who stay for extracurriculars.

With several stops between Shelburne Falls and Charlemont Center, parents from those towns and places like Heath, Ashfield and other west county towns could meet the bus at several stops.

Parents at the forum said they hope a Four Rivers route could be tried as a pilot, perhaps in the afternoon. It’s easier, they said, to drive their children to school in the morning, but harder to bring them home, since they leave school in the middle of the work day.

Students of the Academy at Charlemont have been able to ride the bus for more than two decades.

“It’s very helpful for our families, the rates are reasonable and it saves people gas,” said John Baldwin, the academy’s business manager.

Baldwin said the academy subsidizes the bus service, helping to pay a portion of Charlemont’s local assessment.

Tina Cote, director of the FRTA, said a similar subsidy from Four Rivers may make the route easier to implement. She said it’s not as simple as just sending a bus to and from the school, though. Just a couple of minutes’ deviation in the bus schedule can mean missed connections, and coordination is key to providing the service people need, Cote said.

A fourth and final forum is scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m. today in the Orange Armory, and later focus groups will also be held, Cote said. Those who can’t make it to the forum are encouraged to submit comments in a written letter, through email, or online.

Written comments can be sent to FRTA, 474 Main St., Greenfield, MA 01301. You can also email FRTA’s Assistant Administrator Michael Perrault at michael@frta.org, or Meghan Rhodes of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments at mrhodes@frcog.org.

A Twitter hashtag, #FRTACommunityTalks, has also been set up to gather comments, and the FRTA’s Facebook page, at: goo.gl/G7Xfw0, as well as the FRCOG’s Facebook, at goo.gl/1eSxQB

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