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Springfield city councilors propose using ARPA funds to pay for 3 free bus routes

Springfield, Massachusetts, City Councilors Victor Davila, Justin Hurst and Tracye Whitfield exiting a PVTA bus after speaking with riders about their proposal for eliminating fares.
Alden Bourne
/
NEPM
Springfield, Massachusetts, City Councilors Victor Davila, Justin Hurst and Tracye Whitfield exiting a PVTA bus after speaking with riders about their proposal for eliminating fares.

Five Springfield city councilors want to make several bus routes in the city free to ride.

The councilors rode one of the bus routes on Friday and said they heard from riders who — not surprisingly — were in favor of the idea.

The two-year pilot program would mean no fares on three Pioneer Valley Transit Authority routes with high ridership and is estimated to cost roughly $3.4 million.

Councilor Victor Davila said the plan would not only save residents money, but help them eat better.

"This proposal is going to give the riders and the residents of Springfield at least three supermarkets that they can go to," he said. "It's going to give them options as to where they can buy so they can have a better price and better quality."

The councilors want the pilot funded with money from the America Rescue Plan Act. That would require approval from Mayor Domenic Sarno, who could not be reached for comment.

In an email, a spokesperson for the PVTA criticized the proposal, calling it a short-term scenario that will hinder the authority's ability to provide service. It instead supports providing free or discounted fares to those who qualify based on income.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education and politics.
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