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Group aims to get money for buses

Human Rights Commission to join with FRTA, advocates

GREENFIELD — The town’s Human Rights Commission is hoping it can help Franklin Regional Transit Authority get more funding so that it can afford to run buses on nights and weekends.

Commissioner Penny Ricketts said she knows people who have to depend on buses or taxis to get to work.

“They end up in a vicious cycle, because they don’t have transportation to get to work, so they have to pay for a taxi, which costs too much, because buses aren’t running in the evening, so they don’t get to work and they get fired,” said Ricketts.

“We have to do something. Those are the people who can’t afford to lose their jobs.”

Chairman Lewis Metaxas said that the “something” will start with the commission teaming up with FRTA and Transportation Justice for Franklin County, first to thank legislators for all that they’ve done to get funding so far, but then going forward to ask for more.

“People use buses to go back and forth to school and work,” said Metaxas. “We want to help FRTA so that it can help them. We want to do the most we can with the least.”

FRTA Administrator Tina Cote said she welcomes the help, but added that the three groups should work together so that they are not asking for different things.

“Our legislators have been very good and helpful,” said Cote. “I think we need to thank them first for what they’ve done so far.”

Cote said FRTA is increasing its hours by one hour each evening during the week. She said its primary goal, for several years, has been to bring back weekend service, and that hasn’t changed.

FRTA receives about $1.3 million in funding to operate its fixed routes each year. The local transit authority doesn’t receive as much as many other transit authorities across the state, because it is considered “rural,” even though it covers 1,100 square miles, which is more than most others.

Cote said some of FRTA’s money comes from the federal government, which funds specific things like maintenance or purchase of vehicles, equipment, as well as facility needs and maintenance.

State and member town governments, as well as fare box revenue, fund FRTA’s fixed routes.

FRTA has 45 vehicles. It currently operates six buses and 34 vans and serves 40 member towns in Franklin and surrounding counties.

The commission and Transportation Justice said they will work together to survey riders to find out the greatest needs. The groups plan to create a survey and then take riders’ responses in person.

Cote reminded the groups that they, as well as the FRTA, will never make everyone happy — so they need to figure out what the greatest demands are and from whom.

The commission said it fears that a series of barriers are holding back the most vulnerable of the community, including the elderly, disabled and low-income. It said those are the ones who need public transportation the most, and the ones the commission is most concerned about.

The commission said it hopes to help with an analysis of the situation so that it, Transportation Justice and FRTA can start removing barriers and providing options.

Cote said FRTA is one of the few transit authorities across the state that does not provide weekend service. She said it’s all about funding.

Related

Route 23 loss worries some in FRTA proposal

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

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 … 0

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