ACTR pitches new bus route for Route 116
BRISTOL — Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) is proposing a new bus route along the Route 116 corridor that would take passengers from Bristol to Burlington, with stops in Starksboro and Hinesburg.
James Moulton, executive director of ACTR, said the new service could start as soon as April, pending funding.
“We believe it would be a good, strong route,” Moulton said on Tuesday.
The lion’s share of the money would come via a three-year state grant through the Vermont Agency of Transportation. The town of Hinesburg has already pledged a local annual match of $35,000 for a new route that Moulton estimates would cost $180,000 to $200,000 per year to operate.
Officials in the towns that would be served by the proposed route have sent letters of support for the grant application. Bristol selectmen on Monday endorsed the new bus route, which wouldn’t affect Bristol taxpayers.
A major Hinesburg employer, NRG Systems Inc., has pledged $35,000 toward bus acquisition costs for the service.
While the state grant would run for three years, Moulton is confident it would be renewed to make the new service a permanent fixture. Renewal would be contingent on the service meeting certain ridership thresholds, which Moulton said recent market studies indicate would be met. Ridership goals on more than a half-dozen current ACTR routes that have been initiated on a trial basis through grants during the past decade have been met, he noted.
Drawing down the cost of the service would be a $2 fare (each way) charged to riders. Regular passengers would have the option of buying passes to lower their costs.
If approved, ACTR would initially devote a 20-seater bus for the route, which will feature one Bristol-Burlington leg in the morning and one Burlington-Bristol leg in the early evening. The bus would leave Bristol’s Park Street stop at 6:30 a.m., arriving at Burlington’s Cherry Street station at 7:45 a.m. Along the way, the bus would stop at the intersection of Routes 116 and 17, and at the park-and-ride lot at Starksboro’s town offices, then at Hinesburg’s town office park-and-ride.
The bus would leave Burlington at 5:20 p.m. and make the same stops before arriving in Bristol at 6:35 p.m., according to Moulton.
In addition, the Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) would offer two round-trips from Hinesburg to Burlington, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon.
The extra round trips between Hinesburg and Burlington reflect a growing hunger for public transportation between those two hubs, Moulton noted.
“We have actually been in discussion with the town of Hinesburg, CCTA, NRG Systems and a group called ‘Hinesburg Rides’ for the past four years about this,” Moulton said. “The town of Hinesburg has been very interested in having public transportation service along the Route 116 corridor, particularly between Hinesburg and Burlington.”
Moulton explained that as organizers explored the logistics of serving Hinesburg, “It worked out that the most effective and efficient services involved a partnership between CCTA and ACTR.”
Organizers are optimistic that the new route would require a 28-seat bus within the next three years. With gas prices eclipsing $3.50 per hour, Moulton believes demand for public transit will only grow. ACTR has seen a ridership increase of 33 percent during the first four months of fiscal year 2012 compared to the same four months last year, according to Moulton.
Bristol Town Administrator Bill Bryant said the community’s selectboard on Monday heartily endorsed the new service, recognizing it would not cost the town any money and would give citizens another transportation option.
“It is a neat concept and it will be interesting to see how many people would used it,” Bryant said of the proposed new route. “I suspect a fair number of people.”
Moulton said the Agency of Transportation is scheduled to make its decision on bus route grants by the end of this year.
“I think there is a good chance of (the route being funded), but there is never a guarantee,” Moulton said.
Reporter John Flowers is at email@example.com.