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Ruminations

If You Build It, They Will Come



As I've traveled around Milford during the past few weeks, I've listened to people making arguments both for and against bringing bus transportation to Milford.

The arguments that I've heard in favor of it are basically, "We need it" and "We'll use it."

The arguments that I've heard against it are: the cost is too high, not enough people will use it, and the route through town is too long. I've also heard people say that they are waiting for a final proposed route and cost before they make up their minds.

A healthy discussion of something new to the town is always a good idea. My problem with the "against-its" is that they most likely have never used bus transportation on a regular basis. I did, and therefore am biased toward it.

I grew up in a small town next to Newark, New Jersey. My family frequently took public buses for the 30-minute ride to nearby New York City. I took them every day to get to and from high school. As teenagers, my friends and I took them to and from New York City and the Jersey shore (the real one, not that horrible TV show). I commuted to and from college in Providence by taking buses. No one minded walking to the bus stop. Following the bus schedules were second nature to us.

Once I got my first real job after college, however, I bought a car. It was easier to drive a car than stick to a bus schedule that didn't always match my work hours. When I came to Massachusetts in the late 1970s, there was no local bus transportation in this area and I began driving everywhere.

But, if there were local bus transportation, I'd take it in a minute. The time during the rides would give me a chance to meet new people, read my online newspapers and magazines, and not have to deal with parking at my destination.

If I could no longer own a car or no longer drive one, I would still have the sense of "freedom" that having a car gives you. It's horrible to have to depend on family or friends for a ride. We're all headed that way as we age.

Most of all, I wouldn't be riding the bus for free. In addition to what the Town of Milford would have to pay to be part of the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA), riders would still have to pay for each ride.

In the "old days," in New Jersey and Rhode Island, I had to buy paper tickets in advance at a bus station or drop coins in the fare machine. With today's technology, you can load up a Charlie Card in advance and swipe it each time you get on the bus.

I firmly believe that "If you build it, they will come." I believe the ridership is already there, waiting for the bus service to acknowledge the need that exists.

I also believe the estimated $250,000 annual price tag is not a "budget buster" – in fact, it would be a quarter of one percent of a $100-million budget. Milford has spent a lot more money on a lot of things over the years. It's a small price to pay to enable people to get around.




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