Pam Whitney, a caregiver for Henry Wein, a Butterfield Common resident, spoke at the DVTA public hearing. Whitney has been advocating that Butterfield Common have a bus stop along the Dover-Wilmington route. Some Butterfield Common residents rely on the DVTA’s MOOver bus and the closest bus stop is more than four-tenths of a mile away at the Equipe Sport shop. Whitney said it is a burden for Butterfield Common residents and pressed the DVTA for additional services. “I’m glad that people came to this hearing, although I don’t think we’re going to get a hill of beans from it except that we’re all going to be on the same page. I’m afraid there will be more to come. We’re meeting with our attorney,” said Whitney.
Schoonmaker reiterated the DVTA’s position regarding Butterfield Common. He said many Butterfield Common residents were led to believe by the developer that the DVTA would provide access to public transportation. The DVTA informed the developer, the Windham Housing Trust, that service to Butterfield Common would have to be funded privately, because it was not along the Route 100 MOOver route. But the housing trust ran advertisements saying the DVTA would provide transportation, which was not the case, according to the DVTA. The housing trust changed its advertising upon DVTA’s request. “It was a misunderstanding. People thought the MOOver was coming. We were wrong and I apologize for that,” said Martha Radcliffe, Windham Housing Trust housing counselor.
But Butterfield Common residents did not relent. Whitney commended Schoonmaker for the DVTA’s efforts but she said Butterfield Common’s transportation needs still must be met. “The services are there, but they’re still limited. They border on segregation, which I have a problem with,” said Whitney.
The housing trust did a 2009 survey regarding Butterfield Common transportation needs. They received 17 surveys and only four residents indicated they did not own a vehicle. According to the DVTA’s statement, the Butterfield Common’s demand “is far too small in terms of population served, potential ridership, and cost per ride to trigger a grant request for new service.” Schoonmaker reiterated this point at the public hearing, but Whitney respectfully disagreed. “It’s not about people who don’t have a car. It’s about people who want to access their own community,” said Whitney.
Marlene Wein, of Wilmington, and Henry Wein’s mother, said the MOOver’s service “has been wonderful.” But like Whitney, Marlene Wein is concerned that elder’s transportation needs may not be sufficient. She said one elderly resident fell on her way to the bus stop. Had there been a more convenient location, Wein believes the accident would have been less likely to occur. “We found her in the ditch on the way to the MOOver. We can’t put people in a situation like this where they’re so vulnerable. That’s why we’re here,” said Wein.
The DVTA disputed the account in its written statement. The DVTA learned from a neighbor that the elderly resident “fell in her Butterfield unit and was taken by ambulance to the Deerfield Valley Health Center” and “did not want to wait to see a doctor.” The resident rode the MOOver to the Equipe Sport bus stop and “was picked up by a man in his own vehicle.” Upon arriving home “she told her neighbor she was restless, got in her car and took a ride.”
The DVTA statement says a deviation from the Dover-Wilmington route “is impracticable,” would “disrupt existing ridership and their ability to make connections to other routes,” and “negatively impact their ability to stay on schedule.” Schoonmaker said all new routes also require a funding source. The housing trust or Butterfield Common has not displayed an interest in funding any service.
Prior to the question and answer session, Schoonmaker highlighted the DVTA’s accomplishments. The MOOver transports up to 200,000 riders per year throughout the Deerfield Valley and Brattleboro, and its Dover-to-Wilmington, Readsboro-to-West Wilmington, and East Dover routes are three of the most successful rural riderships in the state.
Schoonmaker presented a graph chart showing 2009 numbers among the state’s transportation providers. According to the graph, two and a quarter riders per hour are acceptable by state standards while approximately five per hour is successful by state standards. The Dover-Wilmington route averaged over 16 per hour; the Readsboro-Wilmington route averaged seven per hour; and the East Dover route averaged six per hour.
The Dover-Wilmington route had the highest number of passengers per hour among all of the state’s transportation providers. The Readsboro-West Wilmington and East Dover routes were also among the top in the state along with two Green Mountain Transit Agency routes in northern Vermont and one Addison County Transit Resources route in western Vermont.
Several community members expressed their approval of DVTA services. Radcliffe; Laura Sibilia, executive director of the Mount Snow Chamber of Commerce; Randy Capitani, publisher of The Deerfield Valley News; and businessman Don Albano commended the DVTA for the service they provide.
Linda Anelli, a DVTA board member, was glad to see different members of the community show their support for the area’s public transportation system. Despite Butterfield Common’s concerns, Anelli said she was confident that a solution could be reached and they are willing to work with Butterfield Common. “The more service we have, the more money we potentially get,” said Anelli. “It’s not the DVTA versus the housing trust versus Butterfield Commons. We’re here to work with you.”
Schoonmaker urged Butterfield Common residents to fill out a form requesting additional transportation service. The form spelled out that those requesting additional transportation must provide the funding. Whitney discussed the form with Butterfield Common property manager Nancy Crawford. According to Whitney, Crawford told her the form was null and void because the Butterfield Common had no available funding.
Schoonmaker told Whitney to fill the form out because the DVTA would seek funding opportunities for Butterfield Common. “We will work with you to find the financing,” said Schoonmaker.