Five College letter to state leaders urges increase in public transportation budget

The Five College Consortium has sent a letter to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and other state leaders urging an increase in the budget for state’s regional transportation systems (RTAs). Baker’s proposed budget would level-fund the RTA budget for a fourth straight year.

The letter is signed by Five College Board of Directors President and Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash and Five College Executive Director Neal Abraham. It notes that years of level-funding the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (the RTA of Hampshire and Hampden counties) “has already had a corrosive effect on the Commonwealth as it requires service cuts that directly degrade our economy, our quality of life, the lives and budgets of poor and working families, and key sectors, such as higher education, that depend on a robust public transportation system.”

The letter maintains that keeping the RTA budget at $80.4 million will have a number of adverse effects on the PVTA, including:

  • Reduce bus service by up to 16 percent, which would affect nearly all 43 PVTA routes and eliminate up to 1.1 million passenger trips a year;
  • Raise fares 25 percent, which will further depress ridership;
  • Curtail van services for thousands of disabled and elderly riders;
  • Seriously degrade services to both the Five College communities and other colleges and universities in the the greater Springfield area;
  • Encourage more students and employees to use cars rather than public transportation, increasing emissions from fossil fuels and adding congestion and wear to area roads

The letter is being sent on behalf of the Five College Consortium, which is made up of Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The letter was also sent to state Senate President Harriette Chandler, House Speaker Robert Deleo, Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Karen Spilka and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jeffrey Sánchez.

It points out that in addition to being essential to helping thousands of Five College students take classes and participate in events on other consortium campuses, the PVTA is critical in helping students and campus employees participate in the region’s economy by frequenting retailers, restaurants and cultural events. Some 850,000 riders used the PVTA’s Five College bus routes last year. “A significant percentage of our 38,000 students require financial aid to be able to attend school,” the letter noted, “and rely on the bus system to get them from their residences to classes.”

See a copy of the letter to Senate President Harriette Chandler.

Additional information on the extent and impact of potential cuts can be found at the Five College bus pages and the PVTA website.