Amherst petition seeks to restore bus service to Amherst Survival Center
AMHERST — For those who use public transportation, the opening of the Amherst Survival Center’s new location at 138 Sunderland Road in December meant they would no longer be dropped off at its front door.
As a result, petitioners are asking Town Meeting to invest town money in expanding Pioneer Valley Transit Authority bus service.
Helen Berg, a volunteer at the Survival Center, submitted a petition article to Town Hall this week that requests $30,000 to add a spur to what is known as PVTA Route 31. The source for this money is not yet known.
Berg said she has talked to people who come to the center who either don’t like the walk from North Amherst center or know people who can’t make the trek. “So many people can’t get there. It’s a third of a mile both ways,” Berg said.
The petition seeks “to provide much needed transportation to the elderly, disabled and poverty-stricken families and individuals” who don’t have the ability to walk to and from the bus stop at the intersection of North Pleasant and Meadow streets.
The bulk of the money would go toward bus rides, with the remaining $2,000 dedicated to installing a sheltered bus stop with seating, lighting and an emergency call box outside the center, Berg said.
Berg said she is confident the measure will win support from Town Meeting voters.
“A lot of people look on the Survival Center as a source of pride, as an emblem of what Amherst has to offer,” Berg said.
Debra Roussel, assistant to the town manager, said the signatures are being verified and, if 10 registered voters have signed it, it would then go to town attorney Kopelman & Paige to verify that the language can be included on the warrant for the spring Town Meeting.
Berg said she turned to the petition after being rebuffed in appeals to town and PVTA officials for more immediate funding.
Town Manager John Musante, who is chairman of the PVTA Advisory Committee, said neither the town nor PVTA has the money for the service.
“It’s not a crazy concept. It’s just very expensive,” Musante said.
Route 31 is heavily used, serving apartment complexes in South Amherst, such as The Boulders and Southpoint Apartments on East Hadley Road, picking people up along North Pleasant and Meadow streets, and going to Sunderland using the Route 116 bypass. Even such seemingly small changes would affect the opportunities for commuters using these buses to get to and from the University of Massachusetts campus, Musante said.
Survival Center Executive Director Cheryl Zoll said she and others have been speaking with PVTA about adding four limited bus runs to the new building.
“No one knows yet what the solution will be,” Zoll said.
Zoll said a recent stop-gap measure includes working with Ziqui Taxi to provide limited shuttle service between North Amherst center and the Survival Center Tuesdays between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Musante said Amherst invested $51,000 in state Chapter 90 highway money to rebuild and extend the sidewalk along the east side of Sunderland Road so that it would be easier and safer for pedestrians walking from North Amherst center.