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Legislation Would Require PVTA To Clear Snow From Bus Stops


Municipalities in Massachusetts can levy fines against homeowners and businesses for failing to remove snow from public sidewalks in a timely manner. But there is a gray area when it comes to who is responsible for clearing snow from public transit bus stops.  Officials in Springfield are looking to address it.

Springfield City Councilor Bud Williams is sponsoring home rule legislation that would allow the city to fine the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority for failing to remove snow or ice from its bus stops within 24 hours after a storm.  The fine would be $200 per violation.

"The bus stops and the bus signs are the property of the PVTA and we are treating it as such," said Williams.

Williams acted after fielding complaints all winter from people who said they’ve had to climb over mounds of snow at bus stops or wait in the street to catch the bus.

Even though the PVTA has put up benches and shelters on sidewalks where people wait for buses, the authority says it is not responsible for shoveling a path to the curb where people board the buses.

But, these people waiting for a bus Friday on Harrison Ave. in downtown Springfield believe the transit authority should be responsible for snow removal at the bus stops.

" It is their bus stop, their buses running by, they ( PVTA) need to shovel it out," said a woman who did not want to give her name. 

" The bus company you pay your fare to should have a crew clean out the area, " said a man as he prepared to board a bus.

PVTA Administrator Mary MacInnes said with over 700 bus stops in the city of Springfield, taking on the responsibility for snow removal would be a logistical and financial burden for the authority and hinted a fare hike might be necessary.

" There is not one position in our budget called shoveler," she said.  " I don't know of a transit authority that is required to do this."

Still, MacInnes said she is not unsympathetic to the obstacles bus riders have faced this winter. She said she has had discussions with Mayor Domenic Sarno’s administration about what can be done and promises a resolution by next winter.

" There are a host of possibilities and now we have the time to come up with a plan that is realistic and can be implemented," she said.

At Sarno’s request, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department assigned county jail inmates on a work release program to shovel snow from 100 bus stops for two weeks last month.

The problem of snow and ice piling up around bus stops has been particularly acute this winter because of a series of major snowstorms in February and a lack of any melting of the snow until this week.

Williams’ legislation faces a long road.  It must be approved by the Springfield City Council, signed by the mayor, passed by both chambers of the state legislature and then signed by the governor.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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