By Karen D. Lorentz
Marble Valley Regional Transit District (MVRTD), generally known as “The Bus” is celebrating its 40th anniversary on Sept. 30 with give-aways from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Transit Center on West Street in Rutland.
During its 40 years, The Bus has seen the need for transportation services grow and has expanded accordingly — from 800 riders its first day of service to over 10 million rides in the last 15 years.
The Bus is the largest non-urban public transportation system in the State of Vermont and provides transportation to the general public throughout Rutland County and beyond as well as to social and human service agencies, educational institutions, and area businesses. Currently, MVRTD has 65 year-round employees and grows to 80 in winter due to expanded hours.
Ken Putnam, director of operations, notes that an important part of the mission extends to “doing our part to serve the community” by providing buses for special needs or requests.
“We have provided buses to support Stuff-a-Bus since it began over 20 years ago. We do evacuations for local nursing homes when needed, provide a bus as requested for firemen to get warm when fighting a fire, and made huge efforts for helping with Irene by meeting Killington residents who needed to get to Rutland after walking through woods and generally helping other Rutland area people get around,” noted Jennifer Ellis, human resources and community outreach manager.
The Bus service began Oct. 4, 1976, with several routes serving three towns thanks to the vision of the Regional Planning Commission, which under its director Mark Blucher had identified a need for local transportation services, said Minga Dana, executive director.
The Bus was first managed by the Downtown Development Corp. In 1982 a change was made to expand the status to a district manager (MVRTD) and The Bus moved from being a private non-profit to a public non-profit. The Bus obtains funding from state, federal, and local resources.
Service has been greatly expanded over the years to include more towns in Rutland County and routes to Manchester, Middlebury, and Ludlow. One of the earliest expansions occurred with extensions to Proctor Castleton, Fair Haven, and Poultney with the Fair Haven route just now expanded to more runs.
In 1986, MVRTD also added the Medicaid Transportation Program for Rutland County, offering free transportation to medical/Reach-up/ Fair Hearing appointments for qualified Medicaid recipients. This program authorizes, arranges, and reimburses trips through fixed route service, volunteers, or taxi as is appropriate and least expensive.
By 1997, The Bus also began to provide transportation to the ski areas (Pico and Killington), serving workers and skiers alike. The ski Commuter Bus now operates hourly service 7 days a week, year round with stops at Green Mountain Plaza, Downtown Rutland, Mendon and Killington and expanded hours in the winter. The ski areas provide financial support for this service.
The Fair Haven and Manchester routes began around 2003 with grants which are specifically designed for commuter routes, Putnam said.
Later, a need for transportation between Rutland and Middlebury was identified by both communities and a grant was secured to provide that commuter route in 2006. Putnam noted it is “one of fastest growing routes.” The joint venture with Addison County Transit Resources was realized in part through a grant to improve air quality by eliminating car trips.
In 2010 The Bus launched an Unlimited Access Program by partnering with learning institutions to provide free service to students and employees. Later, the UAP was expanded to include two major area businesses.
The free service is now offered to anyone with a valid ID from: Castleton University, College of St. Joseph, Community College of Vermont, Vermont Adult Learning, Rutland Regional Medical Center, and the Vermont Country Store. The partners support the bus with yearly subsidies.
The Bus began Paratransit service after ADA legislation was passed and added bike-and-ride service with the addition of bike racks.
“We started with one bus having a bike rack and expanded to most buses having racks for the spring to fall service,” Ellis said.
Exact change, monthly passes or ride coupons are required to board MVRTD buses as drivers cannot make change. Passes and ride coupons can be purchased at the MVRTD office at 158 Spruce Street in Rutland during normal business hours. Or call for the 773-3244, ext. 117 or TDD Relay 711 for times they are available at the Rutland Multi-Modal Transit Center at 100 West St. Rutland.
For more information, including schedules and fares, visit: thebus.com.