Passengers will see slightly longer travel times when Colchester stops become part of Milton’s commuter bus route this summer.
Chittenden County Transportation Authority will bypass Interstate 89 to and from Milton in favor of four stops along Route 7 in Colchester, including Albany College of Pharmacy and a stop near Shaw’s at Water Tower Hill, Severance Corners and Creek Farm Plaza, Planning Manager Jon Moore said.
The changes will add about 25 minutes round trip from Milton to the Cherry Street Burlington depot, he said. The proposal, if accepted by the CCTA board, goes in effect on June 16, Moore said.
CCTA held two hearings last week to gauge the public’s reaction. Milton’s, last Thursday, March 13 in the library community room, drew three attendees.
Dorothy Michelson takes the daily 6:50 a.m. bus from Milton’s town offices to work at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington. Living in a one-vehicle household, Michelson has rode since Day 1 and depends on the bus. On Thursday, she told Moore leaving five or 10 minutes later wouldn’t be a big deal.
“I’m sure my boss wouldn’t care for a few minutes either way,” she said.
Fellow rider Tina Griffis agreed; she works at the University of Vermont and rides alongside Michelson a few times a week. She wondered if Colchester residents seem interested in the routes.
Moore said no one showed to that town’s public hearing last Tuesday but explained CCTA has met with the Albany College dean, who said students living at Severance Corners would likely hop on.
CCTA conservatively projects 15 additional boardings daily from the current 67, Moore said.
CCTA and Colchester picked the stops based on higher traffic areas. Transit Planner Jamie Grey said the Creek Farm area, with its surrounding residences, should get a good draw.
Moore added, “I don’t think it’s going to be a case on June 16 where there’s people standing on the bus. It would be a good problem to have.”
Both towns will pay $28,665 for the service in fiscal year 2015; Milton spent nearly double that in FY14 until Colchester signed a contract for service last June, reducing the town’s costs, Moore said.
Before that deal was sealed, Milton’s Selectboard nearly cut the service due to what it considered low ridership, despite passengers increasing each year, CCTA data shows [see box below.] The Colchester arrangement essentially saved Milton’s bus. Griffis wrote a letter in support and is pleased the bus survived, she said.
Michelson said a core group rides the bus each day. She was happy with CCTA’s response to her concerns about departure times; Moore said the bus could potentially eliminate the largely unused Husky requested stop, speeding up travel between Milton and Burlington. He said CCTA tries to coordinate with its passengers’ work schedules.
“It seems they’re willing to look into it and maybe work out a solution, too,” Michelson said. “It’s a give and take.”
Michelson also asked about park and rides. Moore said Creek Farm Plaza is suited for one, and they’re working on designating five to 10 commuter spaces there and possibly a shelter.
Rissa Michelson’s only concern is the Sunny Hollow area, which gets rather icy in the winter, she said; Moore said the drivers have tested it but admitted not on a snowy day like that Thursday.
At the meeting, it was also unclear if the impending strike would affect plans. The drivers’ union subsequently voted to strike and was still unresolved at press time. Moore only said he thinks the drivers are mindful of passengers’ needs.
The planners were pleased with the feedback, which they showed to the CCTA board this week. Another public hearing will be held in Milton on Thursday, April 3 at 6:15 p.m.; see the ad on the Independent’s page 6 for more information.
“The more feedback we get on the front end helps us structure the route as we can to meet everybody’s needs,” Grey said.