PVTA Fare Hikes Proposed
By Paul Tuthill
Springfield, MA – Riders on the largest public transit system in western Massachusetts could face fare hikes this summer. Officials with the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority have made a specific set of fare proposals aimed at closing a projected 1 point 8 million dollar budget gap. WAMC"s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Under a fare increase scenario made public Wednesday by PVTA officials,the basic bus fare would increase by 25 cents a ride to a dollar 50 cents. Daily passes would go form 3 dollars to 5 dollars, monthly passes would increase by seven dollars. The basic cash fare for paratransit vans used by the elderly and disabled would increase by 50 cents.
PVTA administrator Mary MacInnes said operating costs have been cut sharply since the last fare hike , four years ago. But the transit authority that serves almost 12 million riders yearly is facing higher expenses including contractually obligated pay raises for drivers and mechanics, and skyrocketing fuel costs.
McInnes said no service cuts are being proposed.
The PVTA Advisory Board voted unanimously Wednesday to present the fare hike scenario at a series of public hearings. Officials say a minimum of 8 hearings will be scheduled. The advisory board, which consists of one representative from each of the cities and towns the PVTA serves in Hampshire and Hampden counties, will have the final say on the fare hikes. If any changes are approved, it would take effect July 1srt.
The fare hikes are being proposed at a time when PVTA ridership has been steadily increasing up seven percent in the last year, according to PVTA officials. They project ridership will decline by 9 percent if the full fare hikes proposed go into effect.
Thomas Walsh, the city of Springfield's representative on the advisory board said 60 percent of bus riders have incomes that put them below the poverty line.
Paul Burns, the advisory board member from Palmer, was alarmed by the proposed fare increases for paratransit, which provides federally mandated door to door rides for the disabled and the elderly..
The MBTA which operates bus, subway and commuter rail in the greater Boston area has proposed steep fare hikes and deep service cuts that have been greeted with much protest at a series of public hearings. PVTA advisory board member Richard Theroux of Agawam says a similar outcry in western Massachusetts might led to an increase in state funding..
The legislature, three years ago, approved an increase in the state sales tax and directed additional revenue to the state's transit authorities. The MBTA received an additional 160 million dollars, the PVTA's share was 15 million dollars.