Balancing the budget on our backs

  • Published in Editorials

The Mad River Valley Planning District learned earlier this month that Green Mountain Transit, provider of The Valley’s public transportation system, is facing a serious budget deficit and has announced plans to suspend The Valley’s service for 2020.

While the decision is not yet written in stone, it’s a worrying development for the community. Planning district staff and Sugarbush have pushed back on the idea and are hopeful that a solution can be found.

Green Mountain Transit has already reduced its routes and options in The Valley for the 2018-2019 ski season. Public transit is critical for seasonal employees who work at Sugarbush and Mad River Glen as well as at local restaurants and businesses.

The bus service helps employees get to work and reduces cars on the road. The bus service brings thousands of people to the Warren Fourth of July parade who would not otherwise be able to attend or find parking. Public transportation to bring skiers to the mountains from local lodging establishments is critical for any resort community. A bus system gets housebound seniors to town to shop and socialize with their peers.

As troubling as the prospect of losing our public transit is, it’s curious that we’re just now learning that Green Mountain Transit is in such dire financial straits. Since 2008, Sugarbush has been contributing $70,875 annually for the seasonal bus service. Resort planner Margo Wage points out that from 2003 to present, Sugarbush has only been asked for one rate increase (in 2008), and she questions why the resort went for 10 years without a request for a larger contribution.

If Green Mountain Transit has been running at a financial deficit for multiple years and Sugarbush’s assessment hasn’t changed in 10 years, that speaks to a management issue. If further budget cutting is needed, it’s unfair and morally bankrupt to make the Mad River Valley take the hit. The pain must be shared all the way around, not just by the seniors, employees, employers, visitors and residents of our community. Public transportation matters as much for us as it does for Waterbury, Montpelier and Barre. We deserve better than this.