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Route 23 loss worries some in FRTA proposal

MONTAGUE — A possible Franklin County Transit Authority route change, the elimination of Route 23 through Montague Center to Amherst, has elicited concern from some residents.

Montague Center resident Jeffrey Singleton and two others appeared at Monday’s meeting of the Board of Selectmen, requesting the board add its weight to opposition.

Singleton said a petition to retain the route or replace it with a similar route if cut has garnered about 150 signatures.

The selectmen voted to endorse a letter earlier sent to the FRTA by the town planner opposing the proposed cut, and Chairman Mark Fairbrother said as the committee’s representative to that body he will represent that opposition to the FRTA’s Transit Advisory Committee at their Sept. 19 hearing.

Route 23 runs from Greenfield to Amherst with stops in Montague City, Turners Falls, Millers Falls and Montague Center.

The route is a straight shot between the Montague Center stop and Haigis Mall, off Massachusetts Avenue on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus.

Town Planner Walter Ramsey wrote that UMass is the largest employer of town residents, and the change would be a mistake. Ramsey pointed to the recent approval of the Montague Center School redevelopment project as an argument for the maintenance of direct service, saying the 22 apartments will undoubtedly be filled by Amherst commuters.

Among other changes proposed this year and discussed in a series of public hearings in August, the FRTA proposes to create a new UMass connector, possibly eliminating Route 23.

A proposed Route 61 would run four times a day from downtown Greenfield to South Deerfield for a connection to the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority bus route to UMass, with a stop at Greenfield Community College.

At $3 one way, Route 23 is the FRTA’s most expensive fair and its costliest to run, according to hearing presentation materials.

Singleton said the elimination of the route would leave Montague Center residents commuting to Amherst with a three-stage trip, first from Montague Center to Greenfield, from there on the new route to South Deerfield, and then on to the PVTA route for the final leg.

Singleton proposes the FRTA shorten Route 23 to end in Sunderland for a connection to PVTA service as an alternative.

Montague residents Arlene Jigarjian and David Sroka work at Amherst College and UMass, respectively, and commute via Route 23. Both are against the elimination of the route.

Jigarjian said she has been riding the bus for six years and worried about the prospect of connecting to PVTA buses, whether in Deerfield or Sunderland, with weather delays for both services thrown into the mix and a PVTA schedule that changes with school vacations.

Jigarjian said she would not use the possible new three-stage route, and said that any change should not be implemented for at least a year to allow for notification of all riders.

Another proposed change increases service between Greenfield and Montague on Route 22 from eight to 11 trips daily, with the addition of buses leaving Greenfield at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Ramsey’s letter supports this change and backs Singleton’s proposal for a route between Montague and Sunderland.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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