The Green Mountain Transit board voted Tuesday night to maintain some level of service to Sand Hill Road and River Road following a public outcry from residents who now rely on the bus to get to work and school.
The cuts, part of a system-wide proposal, would have allowed GMT to combine the No. 4 and No. 10 routes and create an all-day trip between Essex Jct. and Williston, with a goal of creating a more efficient and user-friendly service.
But based on feedback at a meeting earlier this month, where more than a dozen residents urged the bus company to reconsider eliminating the route, GMT staff altered their final proposal prior to sharing it with the company’s board of directors on Tuesday.
The new plan is to provide bus service along the two town roads between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. via the new combined route. Jamie Smith, a GMT spokeswoman, said the board concurred with the proposal based on the immense public feedback.
“We had a historically large crowd at the Essex public hearing, which was really great to see,” said Smith, who noted the speakers ranged from people who ride the bus to work and parents whose children ride the bus to school. “It was a really good mix of community.”
The changes will go into effect June 17.
The new plan was welcome news to Brian Donahue, chief operating officer of the Essex Westford School District, who had advocated against the changes based on how they would impact students who ride the No. 4 bus to the high school.
GMT staff acknowledged at the Essex meeting that the No. 4 route ridership was up over 50 percent thanks to an agreement with the school district, in which the bus company is paid a set fee for each student trip.
Donahue said the new plan shows the bus company listened to the concerns raised by the Essex community, and he believed the reinstated route will “go a long way” toward ensuring students have a ride to school.
Donahue did note the slimmed-down service still complicates some things, considering the district’s early dismissal on Tuesday lets high school students out at 1:35 p.m., more than an hour before the earliest afternoon bus trip.
There’s also the question of what to do with students who have abridged schedules that don’t require them to be at school for the first two periods of the day, or students who participate in extracurricular activities that go past 6 p.m.
Still, Donahue was optimistic that the district’s ongoing discussions with the town and GMT can solve the outstanding issues. “I’m sure we’ll come to something that works for all parties,” he said.