In partnership with Green Mountain Community Network, which operates the Green Mountain Express, the MOOver will provide midweek transportation three times daily from Wilmington to Bennington.
In the mornings the MOOver will travel the route twice, departing Shaw’s at 8 and again at 10. The single afternoon trip, provided by the Green Mountain Express, will depart Bennington at 2 and arrive at Shaw’s at 2:45, returning to Bennington via a final 3 pm departure from Shaw’s.
The bus stop in Bennington is at GMCN’S newly remodeled terminal at 215 Pleasant Street, three blocks from downtown. Riders on the new route will be given free transfers onto any Green Mountain Express bus serving Bennington’s state services, medical centers, and shopping.
Donna Baker, GMCN executive director, said, “We anticipate there will be considerable use of the service primarily for medical and shopping. The schedule is very convenient and our Express buses travel to both the hospital and shopping centers every 30 minutes.” For a paid fare, riders can also take a bus to Manchester, Rutland, and Williamstown, MA, or transfer to Yankee Trails, which travels to Albany.
Randy Schoonmaker, DVTA general manager, said, “This is one of the last big holes in our route system to fill, and it restores a key link across southern Vermont from Brattleboro to Bennington.” According to Schoonmaker, the Route 9 corridor of southern Vermont has not been serviced since the 1980s, when Vermont Transit ran service.
Schoonmaker said that DVTA has been applying for grants for this route since 1998. “We are pleased and fortunate to finally be awarded funding for this much-needed service,” he said.
Both agencies were awarded a total of $78,000 through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program. The funding represents 80% of total route costs, with the remaining 20% funded locally. DVTA’s portion of the grant is $51,480, with $12,870 to be matched by its own funds. While the MOOver never charges a fare, Schoonmaker said that DVTA generates funds through a variety of sources, including a large donation every year from Mount Snow, and by revenues from advertising and bus-stop sponsorships.
The last time that DVTA received a grant for a public transportation route was in 2005 when the MOOver began making trips to Brattleboro. Schoonmaker said that the 2005 grant, as well as this most recent grant, are three-year test programs with success measures determining whether funding will continue. He said, “One measure will be to reach 15,000 rides per year. When we started the Brattleboro route we said the same thing, that we were hoping for 15,000. Now we do about 30,000 a year.”
Currently, the most popular routes are the West Dover to Wilmington route with over 85,000 rides per year, and the Mount Snow route with over 47,000 rides per year. In January, the DVTA provided its three-millionth ride; it is the third-largest transportation provider in the state, following only the cities of Rutland and Burlington.
In addition to this grant, Schoonmaker said, “We are waiting to hear about a $3.1 million grant through the Federal Transit Administration to be announced mid-July.” That considerably larger amount of money, if awarded, will be used to build a new transportation facility at its Mill Street site. The dilapidated older portion of the building was torn down last year when its dramatically increasing tilt necessitated an emergency demolition of the structure. A conceptual drawing of the new center can be seen on DVTA’s website, www.moover.com.
Regarding the partnership with GMCN, Schoonmaker said, “This is the first time we’ve partnered with another agency. And, people will see other buses in our area, which is fine.”
“The folks in Bennington run a great system,” said Schoonmaker,”They will take good care of transferring riders to get around town.”