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PVTA proposes fare increases

Date: 6/26/2012

June 27, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — Riders of the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) will gather at noon on June 27 to speak with the PVTA Advisory Board before it decides on whether or not to support fare increases.

Mary MacInnes, PVTA administrator, said the increases are necessary as the amount of funding the PVTA and the other Regional Transit Authorities (RTA) receives from the state is inadequate. She said the PVTA is currently being funded at only 79 percent of its 2002 budget.

Although the RTAs receive their funding at the close of the fiscal year, instead of the beginning, MacInnes said that wasn't the problem; it is the amount the state allocates.

"We're constantly in a hole," she said.

MacInnes explained to Reminder Publications that only 8 percent of the cost of the paratransit service and 23 percent of the fixed route service are covered by fares.

A group of riders, ranging from those who take the bus to those who use the PVTA paratransit service, gathered across from the PVTA bus stop at the Peter Pan station in downtown Springfield to protest the fare increases last week.

John Bennett of Massachusetts Senior Action Council said the increases to the paratransit service are of particular concern. Bennett said currently the service that transports senior citizens and the disabled to medical appointments and shopping costs $2.50 for one way, but will be increased to $7.

"It's going to keep people from getting to their appointments," Bennett said.

MacInnes confirmed the fare increase but noted it is only for people who are more than .75 miles away from a bus stop. Those riders within the .75 mile of a bus stop will see an increase from $2.50 to $3, if approved by the Advisory Board.

MacInnes said "the vast majority" of riders live within the .75-mile radius of a fixed route bus stop.

If approved, the regular bus fare would increase from $1.25 to $1.50 on July 1, MacInnes said.

Bennett was also concerned about the increase of transfers on the regular bus routes from 25 cents to $1. He charged the bus routes have been re-configured so transfers are necessary. MacInnes said she would be proposing an increase to 50 cents and that increase was to discourage the use of transfers.

Bennett claimed that funding from the Legislature would fix any budget deficit the PVTA has, but MacInnes said that while the PVTA would be receiving money to help close the gap, it was only for one year.

MacInnes said the Legislature has asked Richard Davey, Massachusetts Department of Transportation secretary, to devise a long-range funding plan for all of the RTAs for discussion and action in 2013.

She added the Advisory Board had not been inclined to cut services since 2002, when it was forced to slash 21 percent of the services, so the only course of action it has is to raise fares.

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