Saturday October 6, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Officials at Connecticut River Transit are asking the public to be patient as the company starts its new schedule and moves ahead with changes to its bus routes.

CRT started its new schedule on Oct. 1, which includes new bus service to Hinsdale, N.H., and a complete reworking of the Brattleboro route.

CRT Executive Director Mary Habig said the company expected some confusion and dissatisfaction during the first few weeks, but she said she and her staff are listening to all of the complaints and will make further changes if needed.

"These are big changes, and we expected there to be an adjustment period," Habig said. "We welcome all input, and we want to hear if people are having problems. We are trying it out, and if there are glitches we’ll make adjustments."

While CRT received contributions from the town of Hinsdale and from the state of New Hampshire to start the Hinsdale service, some of its other funding was cut, and Habig said the company has been struggling to meet an increasing demand with fewer funds.

She said some of the weekend routes were cut back, but overall, service within Brattleboro during the week increased.

"We have financial constraints," Habig said. "Before we made these changes we held meetings and listened to people and we are doing the best we can with what we have."

The new CRT service to Hinsdale includes five pickup times between 6:20 a.m. and 5:35 p.m. with service to downtown and to WalMart on Route 119.

The company also completely changed its service within Brattleboro.

While riders used to be able to get on one bus to travel from Western Avenue to Putney Road, CRT is now using the Brattleboro Transportation Center as a hub.

The company said the change would allow more riders to get around Brattleboro in less time, but Daniel Wood, who lives at Hayes Court and who has been riding the bus regularly for eight years, said the changes so far have not been working for him.

Wood says he had to wait an hour at the Transit Center to catch a connection to Putney Road, and his usual trip to the grocery store and bank took twice as long as it did under the former schedule.

"It’s screwed up," he said. "The old schedule worked fine. They say they listened to people before they made the change, but if the old schedule worked, why did they have to change it?"

CRT Operations Manager Brian Waterman said he is collecting all concerns, and he is encouraging riders to talk to the drivers and e-mail or send the company observations if the new schedule is not working.

Waterman said that while the company held a series of hearings on the proposed changes and tried to let the public know about the new bus routes, they could have maybe done a better job letting riders know the changes were coming.

Overall, Waterman said, riders in Brattleboro should see better connections and shortened bus trips.

And he said the company is likely to tweak the routes some if there is a call to alter the routes or connections.

"We have extended our service, but if there are problems we can always put something back," Waterman said. "So far I think we’re doing pretty well. But if people are having problems, hopefully it will work out better when they get used to it."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.