FRTA routes safe for now

GREENFIELD — A vote on controversial changes to regional bus routes has been postponed until July at the earliest.

While the delay means service to the University of Massachusetts will continue as it has, it also means a new route will be delayed.

The proposal would have created a “corporate center shuttle” route, providing eight round trips between the Greenfield Corporate Center on Munson Street and the downtown bus terminal on weekdays. The route was proposed to help people get to and from Greenfield District Court when it moves to the corporate center in February, where it will stay until courthouse renovations are complete.

The Franklin Regional Transit Authority Advisory Board voted unanimously Wednesday to wait until the results of two studies are in before deciding on the changes.

One study will examine the amount that member towns pay for fixed-route and on-demand service. That study is expected to be complete around July 1.

The other study would analyze the services provided by the FRTA. FRTA Administrator Tina Cote said there is no estimated time frame for that study.

The proposed changes would have eliminated a UMass route through Montague Center and Leverett. Riders from those towns would have had to travel to the transit center in Greenfield before proceeding south to Whately on a new “UMass Connector” route. Riders would then have to transfer to a Pioneer Valley Transit Authority bus to get to Amherst.

The current UMass route has riders taking the FRTA bus all the way from Greenfield to Amherst, including stops in Millers Falls, Turners Falls and Montague Center.

The proposed changes drew criticism from those who felt they would adversely effect riders to Amherst.

One rider who attended Wednesday’s meeting thanked the board for delaying its decision.

“I live in Turners Falls, and have been taking the bus to my job at Amherst College for six years,” said Arlene Jigarjian. “With the proposed routes, if I left my office at 3:30 p.m., I wouldn’t get home until 6:30.”

Currently, the bus from UMass arrives in Turners Falls less than an hour after leaving the college.

Jigarjian said she takes the bus to UMass, then transfers to a PVTA bus to get to Amherst College. Under the proposed routes, she said, she would have to take four buses to work instead of two.

Earlier this year, a survey was given to riders on the UMass route, to learn more about those who take the bus to Amherst. It was taken into consideration when planning the proposed routes.

Noreen Lemieux, of Gill, thought the results were skewed by the survey’s timing.

“We were given the survey in July and August,” said Lemieux, who takes the bus to Amherst. “That’s a time when there’s a high rate of people on vacation, and no students (taking the bus to class).”

She suggested that another survey be handed out while classes are in session, to more accurately reflect the route’s ridership.

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