Proposals would extend local bus service (6/18/09)

CCTA mulls direct Williston-Burlington route on U.S. 2

June 18, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Bus service in Williston, now confined to commercial areas, could extend to the village and speed the ride to Burlington under proposals being studied by the Chittenden County Transportation Authority.

 


    Image courtesy of CCTA
The bus route proposal called Alternative A eliminates existing stops on Industrial and Kimball avenues and Shunpike Road, and adds a separate weekday route that would loop through Marshall Avenue and Maple Tree Place before continuing on to Essex Junction.

 


    Image courtesy of CCTA
Alternative B includes a circulator bus on weekdays. The option would eliminate service from Williston to Essex Junction, including the existing stop at the Amtrak station.

 


    Image courtesy of CCTA
Alternative C eliminates the direct connection between Williston and Essex Junction. Instead of a circulator service, a separate route would begin at Taft Corners, run along Marshall Avenue and Kennedy Drive and terminate on Dorset Street.

CCTA is looking at how to improve service between Williston and downtown Burlington. Williston passengers must transfer at the University Mall to reach Burlington, a trip that can take up to an hour.

Each of the three proposals being considered would allow passengers to ride directly from Williston to the Cherry Street terminal.

“Eliminating the need for a transfer at the University Mall (between the Umall and Williston routes) and offering a more direct service will improve the convenience of public transportation in the corridor for current passengers and hopefully make it a more attractive option to potential riders,” Meredith Birkett, CCTA planning manager, said in an e-mail.

Each option also adds commute-hour service to Williston Village, extending the run as far east as Town Hall.

The route extension would please Whitney Hill Homestead resident Theresa Kellogg, who said she does not have a car and so must depend on van service or family members because buses don’t stop near her senior living community just outside the village.

“If we get a bus, I can go where I want and not depend on someone else,” Kellogg said.

CCTA is gathering public comment on the options, which in general each streamline service with a route that stays largely on U.S. 2 without the numerous detours made by the current Williston bus. Two of the alternatives also include a “circulator” bus that makes stops in commercial areas of Williston and connects with the U.S. 2 route.

So-called Alternative A eliminates existing stops on Industrial and Kimball avenues and Shunpike Road while adding a separate weekday route that would loop through Marshall Avenue and Maple Tree Place before continuing on to Essex Junction.

Alternative B would also include a circulator bus on weekdays. But the option would eliminate service from Williston to Essex Junction, including the existing stop at the Amtrak station.

Alternative C would also eliminate the direct connection between Williston and Essex Junction. Instead of a circulator service, a separate route would begin at Taft Corners, run along Marshall Avenue and Kennedy Drive and terminate on Dorset Street.

The proposals make choices about how many existing stops can be kept without breaking the budget, Birkett said. Each alternative would add roughly $750,000 to the current cost of service in Williston and South Burlington.

“If we were to serve all the areas currently served by the existing two routes with straighter and more convenient service, the cost of the new service would be even greater,” she said in her e-mail. “We are therefore proposing alternatives which include trade-offs between service to certain areas.”

Jim McCullough is one of Williston’s two representatives on the CCTA Board of Commissioners. He said he has lobbied for additional service in Williston since joining the board about a year ago.

“Honestly, the service can’t come fast enough, in my estimation and in others, too,” he said.

McCullough, who also represents Williston in the Vermont House, said he has yet to decide which option is best. He first wants to see how residents respond to a survey now being conducted by CCTA.

The transit authority’s survey, online at www.cctaride.org/route2, asks riders how they feel about each alternative and how often they ride various routes. CCTA has already held three public meetings on the issue, including one at Williston Town Hall on Wednesday, after press deadline. A fourth meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 22 at 6:30 p.m. at Tuttle Middle School in South Burlington.

Public input to date has pointed to the varying reasons people use the bus, Birkett said. But she declined to further characterize the responses, saying CCTA hopes to first gather more input than provided by the 25 surveys that had been received as of Monday.

How soon — or even if — Williston riders will see better bus service remains to be seen. CCTA cannot fund any of the proposals under its current budget, Birkett said, and so is depending on a federal grant. If CCTA wins grant money, she said, another round of public hearings would be held to consider the final route design and schedule.

McCullough said he had high hopes for better bus service in Williston when he began his three-year term on the CCTA board last July. He has since discovered that patience is required because other towns served would also like new routes.

Still, he said he finds cause for optimism because CCTA has put concrete proposals on the table and identified a potential funding source.

“Now I’m a little heartened that this will happen within my three years,” McCullough said.