The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority has decided to keep its 39 bus route serving Mount Holyoke, Hampshire and Smith colleges and to eliminate the M40 route while merging some of its express runs into the B43 route connecting Smith, UMass and Amherst College. PVTA had been exploring reductions and eliminations on more than a dozen routes in Hampden and Hampshire counties to help address an expected $1.7 million deficit.
At its July 19 meeting, the PVTA Advisory Board decided to keep the R39, but directed PVTA staff members to explore means of maintaining effective service with consortium representatives. As an express route, the M40 has been a favorite of employees commuting to jobs at UMass and Smith, as well as of students looking for quick transportation to classes. B43 buses are already scheduled to connect riders from Smith in Northampton to UMass in 30 minutes, but return trips can take up to an hour. PVTA hopes that converting some of the B43 runs to express service will address commuter and student needs. PVTA maintains that there is adequate capacity on B43 articulated buses to handle the previous ridership of the M40.
“We welcome the decision by the PVTA Advisory Board to maintain the 39 route,” said Five College Executive Director Neal Abraham. “We’ll be meeting with the PVTA administrator next week to discuss 39 service and to ensure that the revised B43 is as efficient as possible for riders and operators. We see these conversations as an important resumption of frequent joint consultations among PVTA, town representatives and the consortium.”
In making its decision, the PVTA Advisory Board acknowledged that it had received hundreds of comments attesting to the value of both bus runs. “We thank the many students, employees and community members who made their wishes known to PVTA,” said Abraham.
“We also look forward to conversations with the PVTA and our partner communities to ensure that costs of ridership are fairly covered,” Abraham added. “And if PVTA faces budget shortfalls in the future, I hope it will contact the consortium and towns earlier in the process to explore solutions.”
The PVTA Advisory Board decided to make a number of additional route reductions and eliminations that may affect students, campus employees and community members. For a complete list of the changes, which will take effect at the end of August 2017, visit pvta.com.