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Regional News

Bus Ridership Plunges In Western Massachusetts

A PVTA bus in July 2019.
MTA3306
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Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/87549811@N03
A PVTA bus in July 2019.

Regional transit authorities across western Massachusetts say the COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected bus ridership.

The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority's Paul Burns-Johnson said the coronavirus has led to far fewer people are taking the bus.

"The system is down to about 21% of last year's ridership," Burns-Johnson said. "The Springfield area is a little bit higher than that, at about a third, but overall the system has decreased by 80%."

Burns-Johnson said the routes seeing the most riders generally service medical facilities and grocery stores. That's in line with the PVTA's request that passengers only ride buses for essential trips.

Other systems are seeing a similar plunge. The Franklin Regional Transit Authority said ridership is down about 85%. In the Berkshires, its transit agency says bus trips are down by 67%.

Western Massachusetts transit officials said it's hard to know how much the lost revenue will impact their budgets. That's in part because they rely less on fares than the MBTA does. The Boston area transit agency said it's looking at a $231 million deficit this fiscal year.

"Fortunately for us, it's not like we're the T (MBTA), where we're bringing in millions upon millions of dollars for fare revenue," said Tina Cote, adminstrator for the Franklin Regional Transit Authority. "I think with the CARES act, we'll have access to some of the federal funding through the stimulus package, that we'll be okay."

The agencies have either reduced or canceled routes amid the pandemic, while also taking enhanced safety measures to help keep bus drivers and passengers safe from the virus.

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