PVTA route changes may occur due to budget concerns

WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) — Due to a possible budget shortfall, the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) is holding a number of public meetings to discuss potential changes to nearly 20 busing routes in the Pioneer Valley.

The meetings will be held to discuss with patrons of the service and others what potential impacts route modifications or removal could have on riders. PVTA’s Director of Operations and Planning Josh Rickman said that they currently face a $1.2 million deficit due to state budget cuts and reduced aid. This number could change however, as grant money could be awarded and budget discussions continue at the state level. According to Rickman, a decision on the changes is expected July 19.

Meetings will be held in a variety of locations throughout the area over the next three-plus weeks, starting in Holyoke on Monday, June 19, and ending in Chicopee July 10, with meetings being held in a number of other municipalities, including Westfield at the Olver Transit Pavilion on Arnold Street, July 6, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“We have a total of 22 service change options that we are basically going to have a public hearing on,” Rickman said. “We’re going to the public to get more information and better context, to make sure we need to create a balanced budget.”

The routes that are up for discussion are ones that are not performing as well as others, according to Sandra Sheehan, PVTA Administrator.

For Westfield, the only route being discussed is B23 on Saturdays, which runs from downtown Westfield to Holyoke near Holyoke Community College, Rickman said. It makes five trips to Westfield and four trips to Holyoke during its time on Saturday. Rickman said that the PVTA would continue the weekday route of B23.

“The service that have been identified for modifications, it’s a service that does not perform as well as other routes in the system,” Sheehan said. “We are trying to make sure to impact the least amount of individuals possible.”

According to Peter Miller, Community Development Coordinator for Westfield, if the route is eliminated it could impact up to 28 riders a day. However, Rickman said that there will be other options for Westfield and Holyoke residents, even if the options are indirect routes.

As for who the riders are that may be impacted, Rickman said that the PVTA does not have the demographics available. He did say though, that “we will be doing an in-depth title 6 analysis of every single major change, so that will be available by July 19.”

The total amount of money that will have to be made up in modifications is dependent upon the final budget and funding that is decided by the state. Additionally, Rickman said that they are seeking a $400,000 grant from the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, which could help ease the burden, as well.

For more information, you can visit PVTA.com and see all the locations and routes up for discussion.