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Amherst says no to new bus route to Survival Center

Volunteers Emily Taverna, left, Steph Robinson and pantry coordinator Shelly Beck  get the pantry ready for pickups at the Amherst Survival Center.

Volunteers Emily Taverna, left, Steph Robinson and pantry coordinator Shelly Beck get the pantry ready for pickups at the Amherst Survival Center. Purchase photo reprints »

By voice vote Monday, Town Meeting refused to appropriate $30,000 to add a spur to Pioneer Valley Transit Authority Route 31 to reach the center at 138 Sunderland Road. The route now reaches into North Amherst along Meadow Street before heading north on Route 116 to Sunderland. The survival center is a third of a mile from the bus stop in North Amherst center.

Town Manager John Musante, who also serves as chairman of the PVTA’s executive board, said Tuesday that he is talking with survival center staff about what can be done to ensure clients and volunteers get to the site. However, he said, staff report that the center is serving more people than ever since moving to its new home in December.

Musante said solutions that help the most people at the lowest cost are being sought. “That’s the whole gist of this.”

The petition was brought by Helen Berg, who gives her address as 138 Sunderland Road. Ironically, Berg said she couldn’t get a ride to Town Meeting Monday night to present her request. She has said that many individuals and families who depend on public transportation have grown frustrated at having to walk from the bus stop.

Before moving from the basement at 1200 North Pleasant St., patrons at the center could be dropped off at its doorsteps.

Survival center staff issued a memo to Town Meeting members expressing appreciation for the spirit behind Berg’s petition, but said they couldn’t support it because it circumvented their own efforts to rectify the transportation problem.

Both the Select Board and Finance Committee opposed the petition.

Musante said adding a new fixed route is not cost effective and that alternatives need to be considered, such as offering a temporary cab service and exploring whether the center can buy a van.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Berg said the decision continues a pattern of disrespect for those in need. “I think it’s a war against the poor,” she said.

As part of the petition, she had requested a sheltered bus stop with seating, lighting and emergency call box outside the new site.

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