Franklin County legislators fight state move to take ride service from transit agency

  • An FRTA bus at the John W. Olver Transit Center in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

State House News Service
Published: 4/21/2021 5:11:50 PM

A group of Franklin County lawmakers is keeping up the pressure on the Baker administration to back away from its plan to consolidate a state-run transportation service that provides access to health care appointments and other services.

Five legislators, three from the House and two from the Senate, wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders on Friday to express their concern that the Franklin Regional Transit Authority (FRTA) will no longer be allowed to participate in the Human Service Transportation (HST) program.

The Baker administration has signed contracts with two regional transit agencies to manage services across three regions statewide, a reduction from the current nine-region network operated by six regional transit authorities.

Human Service Transportation services in Franklin County would be brokered by the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority, based in Fitchburg.

“The transportation needs of Franklin County residents should remain in local hands — not with a service broker nearly 100 miles away,” the lawmakers’ letter to Sudders reads.

“We request that the implementation of this change in service brokers be suspended and services remain as is because it is in the best interest of our constituents, the current service brokers and the commonwealth,” wrote Reps. Natalie Blais, Paul Mark and Susannah Whipps, and Sens. Jo Comerford and Adam Hinds.

The letter was sent Friday, a little more than a week before the House will debate its fiscal year 2022 budget and consider an amendment (No. 1120) proposed by two high-ranking House Democrats — Reps. Sarah Peake and William Straus — that would impose a two-year moratorium on the new contracts taking effect. Dozens of lawmakers asked the administration early this year to pause the new contracts for Human Service Transportation services due to go into effect on July 1.

The Democrats said the Franklin Regional Transit Authority, which has been operating Human Service Transportation services in the county, was not allowed to apply to become a subcontractor, and the legislators said they worried residents would lose their personal touch-point to the system.

The letter was sent in response to Sudders defending the changes to the Human Service Transportation program just a week earlier after she met with Reps. Straus and Peake to hear their concerns.


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