HINESBURG - The town of Hinesburg is anticipating receipt of a letter from the Vermont Public Transportation Administration granting them $135,000 for a multi-year grant to provide bus service to local residents. The grant proposal is part of on-going efforts by Hinesburg Rides, a model program that addresses area transportation issues.
Last March, Hinesburg voters gave approval for the town to become a member of CCTA, giving them a seat on the organizations board of directors and enabling them to pursue federal and state funds on the town's behalf. The grant is part of the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program (CMAQ) that helps fund regional and local efforts to achieve compliance with the Clean Air Act and focuses much of it's efforts on funding transportation alternatives. If granted, the funds require a 20% match from the community, and local wind energy technology company NRG has pledged up-front support of approximately $38,000.
According to Hinesburg Rides Coordinator Karla Munson, the proposed bus service is also supported by AARP as an important option for older riders. She noted that AARP has been impressed by the level of community support for the service.
If approved, the grant would provide 2 afternoon bus trips to Burlington and one morning and one afternoon trip to Middlebury via Starskboro and Bristol.
Community support has been a key factor in addressing the town's need for public transportation, which had for years been expressed by residents and employers alike. Several years ago Village Steering Committee member Karla Munson decided to take on the challenge of addressing that need and began a volunteer driver program to provide rides for residents who lacked transportation to meet their basic needs. Soon she had dozen drivers who were ready and willing to give a neighbor a helping hand by driving them to doctor's appointments and to the store. Munson stressed that is was not a taxi service, but a critical service to those who need it. That program is still alive and well, and has grown to about 30 residents who are willing to provide rides for those in need.
Today, Hinesburg residents are eagerly awaiting word on whether they will now be able to provide vastly expanded service to the community. "We would really like it to happen," said Munson recently. "We're anxious to get the funding and get going."