HINSDALE, N.H. -- Downtown residents who depend on their subsidized bus rides on The Current may soon be out of luck, as the town's selectmen opted Monday to at least tentatively ax from the draft town warrant an article that would designate funding for it.
The selectmen, who had previously tabled the issue, removed Article 16, which would ask voters to raise and appropriate $15,500 to continue Connecticut River Transit's service from Brattleboro, Vt., to downtown Hinsdale along the Route 119 corridor. The Current is a private non-profit public transit provider that offers low-cost rides and Town Administrator Jill Collins said she intends to revisit the issue at Monday's selectmen meeting because a lot of people rely on the inexpensive bus trips. She said all votes of recommendation by the selectmen are tentative at this point and there is a possibility the article could be added back onto the warrant.
Chairman Mike Darcy, Jay Ebbighausen, Bernie Rideout and Wayne Gallagher voted to not recommend the article, effectively striking it from the warrant, at least temporarily. Joan Morel was not present at Monday's meeting. Darcy told the Reformer he expects a representative from The Current to provide updated ridership information next Monday, which will also host the first public hearing for discussion on the warrant article pertaining to the town budget.
Darcy mentioned at Monday's meeting he saw just two people riding The Current a couple of days ago, but later told the Reformer the final decision to cut off funding cannot be made on anecdotal evidence. He said the selectmen need "more data to help make an informed decision on it."
Darcy said the selectmen will sit down with the Hinsdale Budget Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 5, to finalize the town warrant. The budget committee will also meet today.
Ann DiBernardo, the secretary of The Current's board of directors, said she was surprised to hear about the selectmen's actions.
"I know we're doing a real push to get funding from all the communities we serve," she said. "(Funding) is important and we do serve Hinsdale well."
The Current picks up people in Brattleboro and brings them across the state line into Hinsdale, making a stop near the Walmart Supercenter before heading to Main Street. Collins said The Current is in just its second year of providing service in her town. She said the bus makes stops at several locations in downtown Hinsdale, including at Rolling Hills and Heritage Park.
The Current charges each individual $1 per ride and also gets funding through the Job Access and Reverse Commute program of New Hampshire as well as other state and federal funds in addition to donations.
Collins said even if funding from the town is cut off, the Current will still transport from Brattleboro to the Walmart, located at 724 Brattleboro Road.
It was a year ago that CRT began to brainstorm about how to boost unexpectedly low ridership. In January 2013, Operations Manager Brian Waterman said though the 25 to 30 people taking The Current from Brattleboro to Walmart each day was more than expected, he was disappointed only five to eight were using the ride to get to downtown Hinsdale. He said the preferred number would have been 15 to 20 per day.
Waterman said Hinsdale cited studies that predicted higher numbers and suggested to Waterman the low numbers may have been caused by a lack of publicity or unpopular departure times due to changes in the bus schedules.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.