In fiscal year 2019 (beginning July 1, 2018), for the fourth year in a row, state support for PVTA and the other 14 Massachusetts regional transit authorities (RTAs) is proposed to be the same as last year--$80.4 million. Because inflation continues to rise 2-3 percent per year, this level-funding of RTAs is effectively a budget cut.
For PVTA and the population centers and colleges and universities in Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton, and Amherst it serves, there will be a $3.1 million shortfall as of July 1, 2018. In response to the proposed level funding, PVTA’s 24-community Advisory Board is asking for public comments—and will be forced on April 11 to vote—on proposals that would:
• Cut bus service up to 16 percent, which would affect nearly all 43 routes and is expecte to eliminate 1.1 million passenger trips a year.
• On routes that already have fares, raise fares 25 percent, which will likely further depress ridership.
• Curtail van services for thousands of disabled and elderly riders.
• Compound the 4 percent in cuts that PVTA already had to make in 2017—and result in one-fifth of all PVTA service being cut within one calendar year.
Level-funding transit in the Pioneer Valley would mean:
• Colleges and universities everywhere will lose bus service—from UMass and the Five Colleges in Hampshire County, to Holyoke Community College, Springfield Technical Community College, Westfield State University, American International College, Western New England University, Elms College, and Bay Path College.
• Bus service that is essential for retaining students without cars, managing parking for those who do, and reducing auto congestion for residents on nearby streets will be cut.
• People of color and those in poverty will bear an unfair share of the service losses because PVTA would be forced to cut the more frequent high-capacity routes in Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton, and Amherst.
The majority of RTA riders, especially students, do not have cars or other ways to make their trips. There are simply fewer transportation choices outside of the greater Boston area, and so people without cars depend even more on the bus.
It is critical that the legislature step in and provide a firm commitment to fund Massachusetts RTAs at $88 million in FY2019, which is the amount needed to maintain existing levels of service.