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Plan In The Works To Clear Snowbound Bus Stops Next Winter

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WAMC
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The snow from the record-setting winter in Massachusetts has melted, but officials in Springfield are still working to settle the issue of who is responsible for clearing snow from public transit bus stops.  It appears, however, a resolution is close at hand.

Progress is being made on a plan that will ensure people will not have to climb over mounds of snow at bus stops or wait in the street to catch a bus next winter, according to Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and the administrator of the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority.

Sarno said members of his staff have had productive talks with representatives from the transit authority.

"I see the light at the end of the tunnel. We continue to work collaboratively and everyone has to have skin in the game as I think you will see now, " he said.

As complaints poured into City Hall last winter about snow-clogged bus stops, Sarno enlisted the help of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department that assigned jail inmates to shovel snow from about 100 bus stops.

PVTA Administrator Mary MacInnes said with over 700 bus stops in the city of Springfield it would be a logistical nightmare and a financial burden for the authority to shovel out the curbsides.  She said the transit authority has always believed this to be the responsibility of the abutting property owners.  

MacInnes said following the recent discussions with the mayor’s staff, the PVTA is now considering assigning a crew to clear snow from about 50 sheltered bus stops and other stops that are used frequently by disabled people.

"We had the one meeting, and we have not nailed everything down. We need to have that next meeting before everything is finally agreed to," she said.

MacInnes said she also met recently with the Springfield Disabilities Commission to discuss concerns about handicap accessibility. 

" It is not hardly an emergency at this moment. We will have something in place before November that is for sure," she said.

Springfield City Councilor Bud Williams drafted home rule legislation that would allow the city to fine the PVTA for failing to remove snow from its bus stops, just as municipalities in Massachusetts can fine homeowners and businesses for not shoveling snow from public sidewalks.

Williams said this winter was a nightmare for bus riders.

" Due to the amount of snow it became impossible for our citizens to get to their bus stops. People with disabilities who are in wheelchairs are in the middle of the streets," Williams said.

Williams, earlier this week, asked the city council to hold his proposed legislation in committee because he believed progress was being made to resolve the issue.

Springfield is not the only place where PVTA bus riders have encountered un-shoveled bus stops.  There were complaints found online last winter from bus riders in Amherst and Northampton.

The problem of snow and ice piling up around bus stops was particularly acute last winter because of a series of major snowstorms in February and a lack of any significant melting until late March.

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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