PVTA set to launch free rides all summer

The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority will offer free rides starting Saturday, June 1, and exending through Aug. 31.

The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority will offer free rides starting Saturday, June 1, and exending through Aug. 31. gazette file photo

By Alexa Lewis

Staff Writer

Published: 05-27-2024 2:01 PM

PIONEER VALLEY — Pioneer Valley Transit Authority riders will travel for free this summer. In celebration of authority’s 50 years of service, deemed their “Golden Year Anniversary,” all rides have been prepaid starting on Saturday, June 1, and continuing through Aug. 31.

“Over the past 50 years, PVTA has grown, expanded service, an implemented technological improvements that have benefited the region’s residents,” PVTA Administrator Sandra E. Sheehan said in a statement. “PVTA has one of the most professional and dedicated workforces that allow us to provide transit services that make a difference in the lives of our passengers.”

In celebration of this anniversary, PVTA plans to announce additional events, promotions, and other news throughout the year.

Up first are the free rides meant to reward loyal customers. Fares and passes will be eliminated for bus, van, and other transit services this summer. Rides for this period have been prepaid entirely by funding from the Try-Transit Program, appropriated by the state Legislature. PVTA will use $1,393,502 from this appropriation to cover the free fare.

PVTA was created in 1974 by Massachusetts General Law to coordinate transportation across the Pioneer Valley, and is now the largest regional transit authority in the state with 186 buses, 132 vans and 24 participating member communities.

“Over the past five decades, PVTA has been committed to providing the highest quality of convenient and accessible public transportation service that meets the changing needs of our riders in the most efficient and cost effective manner,” PVTA said in a statement.

New grants,expanding service

Service is also set to expand in the next few years, as PVTA will receive a portion of $37 million being awarded through competitive grant programs recently announced by the Healey-Driscoll administration.

Through the Community Transportation Grant Program, PVTA is poised to receive $188,008 to help acquire 29 accessible vehicles, 25 of which will provide general coverage in the PVTA service area of Hampshire and Hampden counties.

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The remaining four vehicles will be awarded to councils on aging. The Easthampton and Amherst councils on aging will each receive one accessible vehicle, while the Tri-Town Trolley service, which runs in East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, and Hampden, will receive two accessible vans.

PVTA intends to use some of these vehicles to launch a new “Connecting Rural Communities” service, which is “designed to increase accessibility within the rural communities of Greenfield, Leverett, Sunderland and Amherst,” according to authority. The service will be provided cooperatively with PVTA’s grant partners: South County Senior Center, Amherst Council on Aging and PVTA’s ADA Paratransit provider MV Transit.

PVTA also filed a joint application for Regional Transit Innovation Grant funding with the Franklin Regional Transit Authority and the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority to rehabilitate seven buses and start a pilot program interconnecting the three service areas. This program would provide connections to rural areas between Pittsfield and Northampton as well as between North Adams and Greenfield.

They were also individually awarded $82,133 through the Regional Transit Innovation Grant for its proposed Connecting Individuals to Employment Program. The program will provide transportation that connects eligible individuals living in Amherst and surrounding areas to employment opportunities in Hatfield, Whatley and Deerfield.

Alexa Lewis can be reached at alewis@gazettenet.com or on Instagram and Twitter at @alexamlewis.