Bus route extends to Birchwood Park

A GMTA bus drives through Birchwood Mobile Home Park. The bus service provides six trips a day to the neighborhood. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

A GMTA bus drives through Birchwood Mobile Home Park. The bus service provides six trips a day to the neighborhood. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

Green Mountain Transit Agency’s stop at Birchwood Mobile Home Park is the company’s newest addition to its bus route in Milton.

Monday, Aug. 29 marked the first day riders could take advantage of the new stop, which was a long time coming, according to John Sharrow, GMTA’s commissioner representing Milton.

Sharrow stepped into his role two years ago with the goal of extending service to Birchwood. His biggest concern was safety. Before the new stop was implemented, riders had to cross the interstate bridge on West Milton Road to reach a GMTA stop. The bridge, however, has no sidewalks and little shoulder, making it unfit for pedestrians.

“There’s 172 units in there. Who needs it more?” Sharrow said of the park residents. “That’s what public transit is designed for – people who don’t have transportation. Also people who don’t want to spend $4 a gallon for gasoline once that goes back up.”

A round trip from Milton to Burlington is $4, Sharrow said.

“Most trailer parks are fairly geographically isolated,” said Tim Palmer, executive director of the Housing Foundation Inc., a nonprofit that promotes low-cost housing. “Having a public transportation organization take the monetary risk of running a bus out to something that’s far away without many other potential customers is a big risk.”

HFI is the state’s largest owner of trailer parks. Birchwood is the organization’s biggest park. GMTA took the risk, keeping Sharrow’s goal to promote connectivity for Milton in mind.

The route includes six trips a day. There are two early morning stops at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. so passengers have ample time to get to jobs in Burlington and elsewhere, which may start at 8 or 9 a.m., Sharrow said.

Other departures clock at 1:12, 5:40, 6:20 and 10:30 p.m. Sharrow said the later time was set for park residents working a midnight shift.

Connectivity will also increase for Milton when the new transit center opens in downtown Burlington on October 13, Sharrow confirmed.

The transit center will replace the street-side bus station on Cherry Street and instead provide an indoor area for riders to wait with air conditioning and heat, along with a customer service representative.

Park residents can also connect to the airport, as well as Megabus and Greyhound buses branching to Boston, New York City and more.

Sharrow also said to look out for RouteMatch, a Smartphone application coming soon to GMTA that enables riders to track their buses, connections and buy tickets on the go.

Another addition to Milton transportation includes the relocation of the bus shelter behind the town offices to the park and ride by the recreation park, which will allow a safer environment during nighttime hours and rainy weather. The town received about $30,000 in state and federal money to upgrade the structure, Sharrow said.

As for Birchwood, a bus shelter is planned in the future, he said, as will index cards with simplified bus schedules and routes.

The first week marked low ridership, he said, due to a schedule-printing mix-up, making it hard to market the new route.

“We have tax dollars funding this, and it’s really disappointing to see buses that are empty,” he said. If ridership continues to be low, the service will be tweaked, he added.

The Milton GMTA bus schedule can be found at http://bit.ly/2cxLP43.

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