Private bus companies will now serve select suburbs around Boston with public transportation to-and-from Boston.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced the BusPlus program Tuesday as a partnership between the state department and the private sector. The program involves the federal funding of 31 new buses that will be given to private bus companies. In exchange, these for-profit businesses will have to improve regional service and be responsible for all bus maintenance and operating costs.
“The one-time federally-funded competitive grant program for $18.4 million includes replacement of 31 regional buses with new, state-of-the-art vehicles,” said MassDOT spokeswoman Amanda Richard. “BusPlus increases the intercity and commuter transportation options available across the Commonwealth and all of New England.”
The buses will be provided to private carriers that already operate on the Intercity Bus Capital Assistance Program including companies such as Peter Pan Bus Lines, Plymouth & Brockton Street Railway Company, DATTCO, the Coach Company, Greyhound and Yankee Line.
The mandatory service improvements mentioned will vary from business to business. Yankee Line, for example, will be adding one additional round trip from Concord to Boston Monday through Friday, starting March 17.
“There is already an extensive, privately operated bus network across the region and it made sense to work together with these private bus operators to deliver additional services,” Richard said. “We [MassDOT] found from a recent regional bus study that one of the largest complaints was a lack of intercity and commuter bus options, [and] this program is meant to help to address some of those complaints.”
Massachusetts Rep. Cory Atkins, whose district includes Concord, said he supports the government grant.
“Multiple transportation options are vital to the quality of life in my district … my constituents are constantly looking for alternative ways to get to Boston and elsewhere,” she said. “BusPlus and other public investments in these areas are worthwhile and should be applauded.”
Some Boston residents said they remain skeptical of BusPlus, unconvinced that the cost to the federal government is worth the benefits.
“That’s a lot of taxpayers’ money for a few more bus routes,” said Patrick Callahan, 42, of South Boston. “[It] doesn’t sound like it’s creating that many more jobs, either.”
Ashley Craig, 38, of Roxbury, said she doubts the worth of BusPlus and how much it is costing.
“It just sounds like the government is giving these bus companies a huge, free benefit for service they should want to provide their customers anyway,” she said.
Some locals, however, are happy to see any changes to the current system, regardless of the source.
“I used to live in Concord, I took Yankee Line buses all the time,” said Mary Vegas, 51, of Boston. “Any improvements the state can make to the bussing systems are great. As a commuter, I can tell you the system is downright inconvenient at times.”
Brent Horvath, 29, of East Boston, said the improvements to the bus network will be quite welcome.
“If the government feels they need to step in to improve anything, especially transportation, for its citizens, power to them,” he said. “I’m glad our elected officials are keeping us in mind.”