MassDOT Is Ignoring the Needs of 12 Million Pioneer Valley Transit Riders

Caroline Cox

The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) is the largest public transit service in Massachusetts outside of the MBTA. More than 12 million riders across 24 cities and towns rely on the service every year. For nearly 70 percent of those riders, the PVTA is their only source of transportation. Nearly half of its riders live below the poverty line.

Demand for reliable public transit in the region is high – and growing. Given this demand, why then has the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) reneged on a promise to help fund a new operations and maintenance facility for the PVTA in Springfield? The PVTA was scheduled to begin construction of the new facility in June – once the funding from MassDOT was approved. But when the state agency announced its Draft 2017–2021 Capital Investment Plan in April, the $71 million promised to the PVTA for the facility’s construction was nowhere to be found, forcing the transit authority to put the long-awaited project on hold.

The new facility is a crucial investment. The PVTA presently houses and services its buses in a 100-year-old trolley barn that is poorly designed for the modern transit fleet. The building was originally meant to store only 50 buses, but today 110 buses are crowded into the functionally obsolete facility. Additionally, 220 employees work in the cramped space that was constructed to fit just half that number.

The necessity of the investment goes beyond storing and maintaining buses, however. The failure to build the new facility would make it more difficult for PVTA to meet the transit demand of the communities it serves. Since 2007, PVTA’s ridership has increased yearly, putting a strain on its already overburdened maintenance facilities. With a functioning public transit system a necessity for so many of its riders, PVTA needs an effective facility to meet the growing demand.

For its part, PVTA has put in the time and money to make the project possible. Over the last three years, PVTA has spent more than $2 million in federal funds, $3.7 in state funds, and almost $50,000 in PVTA planning funds to prepare for construction. PVTA also has $4.9 million in outstanding obligations from its preliminary work. MassDOT was set to contribute the $71 million needed to complete the project.

Without the promised funding from MassDOT, PVTA will not only have lost on its significant investment, but the cost of the project will increase. Even a ten-month delay would result in a $3 million increase to the project’s cost.

MassDOT still has a chance to correct this significant omission from its draft capital budget. CLF is calling on MassDOT to reverse its decision and fund this vital project. The 12 million people served by PVTA deserve a better system and MassDOT cannot simply ignore their needs, particularly when a project is so critical.

 

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