On Friday, Dec. 1, Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) published a renovated shuttle bus schedule as a result of the relocation of the Middlebury Transit Hub from Merchant’s Row to Academy Street near Twilight Hall. The hub change became necessary because of the downtown Middlebury bridge construction, but the new location should make the bus services more accessible to students at the college.
“I am very excited to share with you the launch of renovated and revamped ACTR bus services, so that you can get where you need to go with more ease!” SGA President Jin Sohn ’18 said in her email announcing the changes to students.
The Middlebury Shuttle Bus (MSB) College Shuttle, a fare-free mode of transportation, will now offer frequent service at ADK, Axinn@McCullough and Freeman Way, according to Sohn. The Academy Street Hub also provides passenger shelter so that commuters will have protection from the elements, especially in the upcoming winter months.
“The boon of these necessary changes is improved connectivity for the college campus,” Mary-Claire Crogan, community relations manager for ACTR, said. “Campus riders now have direct access to every route from Twilight Hall.”
Crogan shared that last year, she worked with some members of the SGA in addressing climate change through public transit. Together they addressed potential campus stops that could be used to reach desirable locations around Middlebury for students. The new stop at Axinn@McCullough is a result of these collaborations, according to Crogan.
“The SGA helps to cover some of the costs for the ACTR services through a grant dedicated to sustainable transportation initiatives,” Sohn said.
Crogan noted that there were conversations about the new Academy Street hub with the SGA as well, but that the move was really part of larger town and state affairs, in which various officials and community members worked together to make the decisions.
According to Crogan, the new hub does present some challenges. For example, there were concerns about walkability for physically impaired riders and for the schedules and transfers that would be affected by the new location. However, since the summer, ACTR and the town of Middlebury have been working to alleviate these concerns.
“The town relieved walkability concerns by permitting new stops at the Post Office that can be used to access downtown locations and the new hub,” Crogan explained. “Staff worked all summer testing new pathways, looking for efficiencies and rewriting timetables. We found creative ways to keep the in-town buses pulsing with the same frequency.”
Since the launch of the new schedule last Friday, the system has been running smoothly. New Main Street stops maintain bus accessibility for commuters around North Pleasant Street or anyone looking to access downtown services. Crogan said that the new Academy Street hub has had the largest impact on the Tri-Town Bristol and Vergennes routes, the riders of which will now have slightly longer trips.
Although she is unable to predict how much these changes will increase student bus usage, Crogan thinks the incentives for using the new system will appeal to students at the college.
“Many members of the college community say they are concerned about the effect of carbon on the environment,” she said. “Riding the bus is a small change a person can make with a significant climate impact.”
Sohn believes that the new system will increase ridership of Middlebury students, especially since the flexibility and number of stops have increased on campus.
“I also expect this service to be especially helpful to students who travel to town(s) often or live off-campus, and for students who need transportation accommodations,” Sohn said. “The ACTR buses are wheelchair accessible and ADA-compliant, both very important factors.”
Crogan highlighted the ways in which the bus system can work to connect students at the college with the greater Middlebury and state communities as well. For example, it can make students aware of local events and places that will diversify their Vermont experience and expose them to communities in the state. Additionally, by using the ACTR system, students help to maintain its funding and existence for the larger community.
“‘Transportation for everyone’ is written on the side of every ACTR bus, and that is absolutely true. Students using transit share the ride with members of the community from every age and socioeconomic background,” Crogan said.
Sohn agreed that increased opportunities for students to explore beyond the college bubble will likely lead to increased interactions with the outside community.
“I think it will be important to see to what extent these interactions happen and how we can find ways to create similar opportunities to promote stronger community relations in other sectors on and off campus as well,” Sohn said.
Both Sohn and Crogan emphasized some key elements of the ACTR bus system that students may not be aware of. These include that there is no cost to ride to destinations in the town of Middlebury, that buses will pull over at any safe location to pick up passengers who wave, that the MSB Hospital bus now serves Porter ExpressCare and that the Snow Bowl shuttle is fare-free for Middlebury College students.
According to ACTR, there will be new signs, new schedule brochures and updated website information to reflect these changes. Additionally, riders can call 388-ACTR(2287) with any remaining questions.