ADDISON COUNTY — Two Vermont transit organizations soon will begin offering weekday bus service between Middlebury and Rutland.
Officials from Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) and the Marble Valley Regional Transit District (MVRTD) said the service, which will run several times a day during the workweek beginning Dec. 4, will make it easier for people to commute to and from both towns.
“Our excitement is hard to contain,” said Jim Moulton, executive director of ACTR. “This service has the potential to make a big impact on the economic, social and environmental health of both regions.”
Moulton estimated that the service will see between 30 and 50 riders per day by the end of the first year of operation and will probably increase over the following years. He compared it to ACTR’s Middlebury-Burlington bus, which had about 20 riders per day when it opened in 2004 but now has about 65.
An exact schedule and stops in between have not yet been determined, Moulton said, but they plan to have two morning runs and two evening runs leaving from each end of the route. It will stop at every town on the way and will have a few Park-and-Ride locations. The charge for the service is still being worked out but officials said it won’t be more than $3 per ride.
The service is supported by a three-year demonstration grant administered by the Vermont Agency of Transportation. The $130,000 grant will be divided between ACTR and the MVRTD.
The new route will have three years to prove its viability, according to Ellen Atkinson, director of human resources for the MVRTD, and will be renewed if it meets certain benchmarks for usage and impact on the area. “We feel pretty confident that it should take off very quickly,” Atkinson said.
Moulton said that the service should reduce congestion on Route 7, which will be even more important when major reconstruction of the highway in the Brandon area starts. The project, scheduled to begin in 2007 and continue for several years, will involve repaving and widening the road in several places. “(We think) people won’t want to be driving with that going on,” he said. “It will encourage people to ride the bus.”
Cathleen Ramsey of Leicester is one area resident who has been looking forward to public transportation between Middlebury and Rutland. “If the timing worked out, I’d definitely be very interested in that,” she said.
Ramsey’s children attend school in Rutland but Ramsey herself works in the Middlebury town offices, so driving takes a significant portion of her time every day, even with carpooling. “I’m very supportive of public transportation in general, and I hope something like that could work out in this situation.”