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PVTA Sees Drop In Riders, But Bump In Revenue After Fare Increase

Pioneer Valley Transit Authority buses at Union Station in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Creative Commons
Pioneer Valley Transit Authority buses at Union Station in Springfield, Massachusetts.

This past summer, the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority increased its fares after facing a budget shortfall. Now, bus ridership is down but revenue is up.

The PVTA enacted 20 percent across-the-board fare increases.

From July through September, the regional bus service saw a 6.6 percent drop in riders compared to the previous year.

PVTA administrator Sandra Sheehan said she's not surprised.

"When we did the calculation and the analysis, we took into consideration the possibility of losing some riders due to the increases in fares," Sheehan said.

But Sheehan said the decrease in passengers is about bigger factors than just the fare increase. She said a better economy means more people can afford cars.

"Ridership in public transit service, especially bus service, has decreased across the board in the whole country," she said.

Despite the drop in ridership, farebox revenues jumped 9.6 percent.

That's because of people like Rob Greene of Springfield, Massachusetts. He was at Union Station waiting to board a bus.

"I have to take the bus to go to work, so I'm going to take the bus regardless of where they go up to, but it doesn't really affect me that much at all," Greene said.

For Christa Trombley, who's a single mother from Holyoke, the story is different. She's still riding, but said the fare increase has her trying to minimize her trips.

"I have to plan my appointments along with the kids' appointments, trying to put them close together or in the same day, so I'm not spending $3.50 two days later, bringing myself to an appointment," Trombley said. 

And these fare increases, along with some service cuts, have not solved all the PVTA's budget challenges. There's a lot of uncertainty.

Sheehan said she'll know more when Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker releases his next budget proposal. Regardless, another fare increase has already been set for 2021.

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