Petition calls for more bus service
Says Franklin County needs more public transport
A rider boards an FTRA bus at John W. Olver Transit Center in Greenfield.
FRTS bus at John W Olver Transit Center in Greenfield
GREENFIELD — A bus driver for Franklin Regional Transit Authority has created a Facebook page and started a petition to lobby the state for more money in hopes of increasing service by adding evening and weekend hours.
“We want the same,” said FRTA Administrator Tina Cote. “The issue is definitely money.”
Cote said the FRTA currently runs on a yearly budget of $3 million, which comes from state and federal governments, as well as local assessments to member towns and fare revenue, and that budget supports the services the authority offers at this point. She said services do not currently include evenings or weekends.
“We’d be more than willing to work with people who want more services, but we also have to work within our budget,” said Cote. “We’ve been trying to get more from state and federal, but we don’t receive urbanized funding, even though FRTA covers the largest area of any transit authority in the state. Rural funding is what it is.”
Cote said the area FRTA services totals 1,100 square miles.
“We’ve been working and are still working on a way to provide at least some service on Saturdays,” said Cote.
Russ Fisher, the bus driver who started the campaign, said he started the campaign because he wants to help Cote build an even more efficient service, and because he believes through conversations with riders that there would be enough people riding the buses evenings and weekends.
Cote said she can’t increase services right now, because the $3 million FRTA receives each year has to pay for services, insurance costs, union wages, benefits, and fuel, to name a few. She said she, her full-time assistant administrator, and a part-time bookkeeper are the only administrative positions paid out of that money.
“A lot of our costs are pretty much costs we can’t control,” she said.
In the meantime, Fisher’s local attempt through the Transportation Justice for Franklin County MA campaign, “Buses For the People,” continues to collect signatures. It hopes to reach 100. So far it has collected 99, but some of those people live out of state.
The petition, which asks, “What about Western MA, Franklin County?” will be sent to the state’s House, Senate and governor. The petition continues: “For so many reasons it is the right thing to better our bus service. Can you believe there is no weekend service out here?”
Cote said if FRTA gets additional funding for Fiscal 2014, which begins July 1, the first thing the local transit authority will do is look at finding a way to extend weekday hours and offer Saturday hours.
Cote said the transit authority provided about 120,000 rides last year, and that was up by 30,000, rising to 150,000 this year. She said she hopes even more will ride the buses next year.
“Maybe if we can show the federal and state that we are consistently increasing ridership, we’ll get more,” said Cote. “What I’m hoping doesn’t happen is we add weeknight and weekend services and then no one rides the bus at those times.”