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GMTA asks towns for money -- earliest year-round transit in 2010

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07/17/2008 

By Lisa Loomis

If local voters agree to pony up $30,000 in matching funds at Town Meeting next year, there may be year-round public transit in The Valley by 2010.

Alternately, local towns could agree to pony up funds almost immediately for there to be public transit in 2009.

Public transit in The Valley is provided by the Green Mountain Transit Agency (GMTA). GMTA representatives have been to Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston recently, requesting matching funds from local select boards to provide public transit. All three towns have agreed to put the matter on their Town Meeting agendas for March 2009, but that means transit would not become a reality until 2010.

Aaron Frank, of GMTA, was present at July 14 meetings of the Fayston and Waitsfield Select Boards to discuss the request. In Waitsfield he explained that the towns have two options. Towns can agree to supply the 20 percent match needed for a federal CMAQ grant, totaling $30,000 in local funds. Alternately, the towns could agree to supply 10 percent of the funding and divert some of the existing transit monies that come from The Valley.

Currently GMTA receives $67,500 from Sugarbush, $9,440 from the chamber and $588 from Fayston, $923 from Waitsfield and $943 from Warren. The bulk of those funds provide ski season transit up and down the access road, to and from Lincoln Peak and Mount Ellen, and one route from the ski areas into Waitsfield. The town contributions currently help fund transportation for the elderly and those with special needs.

GMTA is considering creating a commuter route for The Valley, based on funding. The route would provide year route commuter service from Warren to Waitsfield to Moretown and on to Montpelier-Barre.  

Chris Coles, GMTA director said that local towns could have a year-round commuter service earlier, in 2009, if the towns were willing to pony up $30,000 or $15,000 right now. A local contribution of $30,000 either now or next year would provide a commuter route and keep the winter service at the ski areas intact. A local contribution of $15,000 now or next year would impact the winter service at the ski areas.

He said that the decision of whether to use some of the funding that currently pays for seasonal on-mountain service for local year-round service would be made by the GMTA board.

Concurrent with GMTA's work towards creating a commuter route for Valley residents, is work restructuring the winter Valley Floor route.

"We have to do something with The Valley Floor service sooner versus later regardless of whether we turn it into a commuter route this winter or not. Ridership on that route isn't meeting performance expectations of the state of Vermont. Knowing that, maybe the local region would rather have a commuter route rather than a seasonal service," Coles said.

He said that GMTA had received many requests from The Valley community for a commuter service.

"If that's the case and that's what the community wants, then the local towns will have to support that service with funding," he said.




Fayston Select Board discusses public transit


By Kara Herlihy

Green Mountain Transit Agency (GMTA) representative Aaron Frank was present at the July 14 meeting of the Fayston Select Board to request matching funds for increased public transportation in The Valley.

The Fayston Select Board approved a motion to include the funding request in an article to be brought before the voters at Town Meeting in March 2009. Select Board members also requested that a GMTA representative be present at Town Meeting for informational purposes.

In reference to increase public transit including van pooling, Fayston Select Board member Ed Read said, "It would be nice, but it costs a lot of money to change people's habits." He continued, "People are tied to their cars, so it becomes a hard sell to people."

GMTA plans to submit a fourth CMAQ grant application to VTrans to acquire the necessary funding to move forward with a Valley commuter route. In order to apply for the CMAQ grant, GMTA needs a written commitment from one or more Valley towns to contribute the remaining 20 percent local match ($30,000).

Frank's request follows a previous meeting between GMTA and the MRVPD Steering Committee that dealt with what GMTA director Chris Cole called the "bleak" future of public transit in The Valley.

At the last meeting of the steering committee, Cole said, "We're in a tight situation. We need to examine what we can do differently so riders can utilize the service," he continued.

The Valley Floor route currently costs $70,000 to operate during the winter months. Cole said that GMTA is currently brainstorming ways to sustain the service year round-which may include diverting funds from the winter service and putting them towards a year-round commuter route.

Steering committee member and Warren Select Board chair Burt Bauchner said, "The world is a different place now, and we have to do something more creative here."

If the CMAQ funding is not awarded but a written commitment is provided, GMTA "will begin investigating the feasibility of diverting funding from winter service to year-round service," according to a GMTA memo from Cole. "We estimate the local funding needed to supplement existing funds used for year-round service to be approximately $15,000," he continued.

The town of Warren approved a similar motion to include the funding request as an article to be voted on at Town Meeting.

GMTA is funded with a mix of federal, state and local money. Currently, the local funds from The Valley are being provided by Sugarbush ($67,500), the Valley Chamber of Commerce ($9,440), and the towns of Fayston ($588), Waitsfield ($923) and Warren ($943), according to GMTA.

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