Riders aghast at PVTA’s proposed service cuts

  • Ruizhe Si, 25, waits for a bus Wednesday at the University of Massachusetts Haigis Mall.

  • The R29 Pioneer Valley Transit Authority bus makes a stop at the Haigis Mall at the University of Massachusetts, Wednesday. The R29 route would be affected by proposed service reductions.

  • Mark Britton, 22, talks about proposed service reductions by the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority while waiting for a bus Wednesday at the University of Massachusetts Haigis Mall. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hlelolwenkhosi Mamba, 27, talks about proposed service reductions by the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority while waiting for a bus Wednesday at the University of Massachusetts Haigis Mall.

Published: 7/12/2017 11:09:15 PM

AMHERST — Mark Britton, 22, is a recent graduate of the University of Massachusetts and said he would not have been able to do his senior thesis without relying on the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority’s M40 bus.

“I was doing my thesis on a credit exchange program between UMass and Smith (College), so I wouldn’t have made lab meetings, I wouldn’t have finished my thesis, and I wouldn’t have graduated with honors,” Britton said while waiting Wednesday for the PVTA’s R29 bus from Haigis Mall at UMass.

“I was studying full time in order to graduate on time, so I didn’t have time to work full time, so I couldn’t earn money and I couldn’t afford a car.”

Britton is one of many PVTA bus riders interviewed by the Gazette this week who expressed concern and dismay about the transit authority’s proposed plans to scale back or eliminate service on as many as 16 bus routes that run through the area, including many that serve the Five Colleges like the M40 and R29.

The PVTA advisory board is expected to vote on the proposed changes July 19, as it faces an estimated $1.7 million budget deficit, according to the regional transit authority.

Having just graduated, Britton said he’s moving to Texas in a couple of weeks to start a new job, and the public transportation PVTA provides helped make that happen.

“If I had been working … my grades would have plummeted, especially if I would have had to arrange my own transport instead of using the buses,” he said. “At that point, it just would not have been financially worth it. This bus was critical for me to get my first job after college.”

Ruizhe Si, 25, is a Michigan Technological University student studying at UMass Amherst for a month. He said Wednesday he rides a PVTA bus twice a day to get to school. And while he isn’t sure if he uses the routes PVTA is examining for potential cuts that often, he knows many other students who do.

“A lot of them do classes at more than one college,” Si said. “It would be hard on them. The bus system here is, I think, very convenient.

“At my school in Michigan, there is only one bus. It’s difficult to get anywhere. Here, it is so much easier for students to get where they need to go. I don’t know if it would be like that if they cut buses.”

Twenty-year-old Makileigh Barre uses the X98 Crosstown Northampton and didn’t know PVTA was looking at cutting bus service in the area.

“I usually use it every day,” Barre said while waiting for a bus on the X98 route in downtown Northampton. “It would take me a lot longer to get anywhere without it.

“I don’t really have any other options right now, because my license is suspended for speeding ticket fines, so I wouldn’t have another way to get anywhere.”

Barre said she spends a lot of time traveling through Greenfield, Northampton and Holyoke.

“So many people take those buses,” she said. “I don’t know why they would do that. There’s already not enough bus service in the area, in my opinion. Sometimes I end up sitting here for hours waiting for my bus.”

Gretchen Feist, 52, is another PVTA rider who uses the X98 bus a couple of times a week and said she wanted to go to recent PVTA hearings about the proposed bus cuts but wasn’t able to without her own transportation.

“I don’t know why they’re thinking of cutting the buses,” Feist said while waiting for a bus in Northampton. “The bus is basically how I get around, how I visit friends. Without the routes I need, I would have to either walk or not go at all.”

Mansoureh Tabrizi, 50, uses the PVTA’s R29 to get to the mall in Holyoke from Amherst because he doesn’t have a car.

“I don’t even have a driver’s license, so I couldn’t go there without the bus,” Tabrizi said, while waiting to board a bus in downtown Amherst. “It’s the only way for me to get over there. They might cut it? I can’t imagine why they would do that. I’m not sure what I would do if I couldn’t use that bus.”

Ronald Phillips, 26, takes the bus on many of PVTA’s routes, including the R29, and said he is grateful that many of the buses are free.

“My car just broke down, so I’m going to have to be back on the bus most of the time,” said Phillips, as he waited to board an R29 bus in Amherst. “I commute from Amherst to Greenfield Community College, and there are already not enough buses on that route.”

In his view, Phillips said the PVTA should be expanding bus service, not shrinking it.

“The R29 is a great bus,” he said. “That is crazy that they want to cut it. A whole community of people rely on this bus. It’s one of the only buses to go to the far south of Amherst on Sundays.”

Phillips noted that his mother’s boyfriend works in Amherst, but he lives in Holyoke, and depends on the R29 to get to and from his job.

“If you cut that bus I end up having to illegally trespass on a golf course to catch a different one,” he said. “I don’t mind the walk, but I don’t want to trespass. I’d rather just be able to get on the bus I need.”

While waiting for a PVTA bus in Amherst, Mark Reed said he uses the R29 to get to medical appointments.

“As far as I know, it runs every two hours, so it’s already sparse,” Reed said. “If they cut it, I’d be slightly bummed. I’d have to catch the 43 and connect in Northampton. It would add an hour to my trip. It would take up a big part of my day.”


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