Editorial: Rider needs

Meeting people’s needs.

Those words have to be considered the backbone of any kind of service aimed at the public, particularly transportation. Therefore, it is encouraging to hear Tina Cote, the administrator for the Franklin Regional Transit Authority, say that’s the basis for the public hearings she’s holding to hear from residents of the area about bus service and ways to improve the FRTA.

Having such meetings — in which FRTA officials can hear from riders and nonriders alike — is the right approach and we encourage the FRTA to consider having more of these hearings every six months or so. Such a schedule would allow the public to be part of a solution-making process, one that can prove beneficial to the FRTA and its ridership.

Take these latest hearings. The FRTA heard from riders about the importance of particular routes. Hearing that, say, an early morning run between Greenfield and Amherst would be helpful in helping people get to work provides the kind of information that ridership numbers alone can’t provide.

And while the number of people using a particular route should weigh heavily in determining whether the FRTA should maintain that route, it may be an instance where more outreach should be done to see if ridership numbers can be increased.

It’s that kind of feedback that advertising campaigns can be built around. For example, we know that the University of Massachusetts is one of the biggest employers of Franklin County residents in the region, to say nothing of the students who live off campus. It would make sense, then, create the kind of schedule that works for those people both in the early morning and again in the evening. And to advertise those routes at UMass to get people out of their cars.

That’s also why we see nighttime and weekend routes as important to seeing public transportation grow. Cote says that there first has to be funding in place to provide such a service. But if the FRTA’s credo is meeting people’s needs, then there has to be a way to create some weekend routes now, even without additional funding.

Public transportation, particularly in rural areas like much of Franklin County, is as important as water, sewer, police and fire services, particularly when times are tough and money is short.

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