ACTR bus company cruises past 2 million mark in riders
MIDDLEBURY — Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) has just eclipsed the 2 millionth rider mark, a substantial achievement for a non-profit organization that got its start 23 years ago coordinating individual rides for transportation-challenged residents.
Rider number 2,000,000 took his or her seat in anonymity in mid-August on one of ACTR’s 18 buses. Jim Moulton, ACTR’s top administrator since 2002, explained that the benchmark number was calculated based on a running tally of ridership counts along the six routes currently operated, or co-operated, by the Middlebury-based service.
As a result, there was no “golden ticket” or confetti storm to fete the 2 millionth rider. But the organization dispensed goodie bags during a “free fare day” on Aug. 25. ACTR also passed out free doughnuts, coffee and games at its bus shelter on Merchants Row in downtown Middlebury. Staff and organization directors boarded buses to thank riders for their support throughout the years.
“We are really proud of this milestone,” ACTR board Chairman Adam Lougee said. “We have seen growth not only in the number of riders, but in the number of communities we serve.”
The growth of ACTR has been swift and exponential, particularly during Moulton’s 13-year tenure.
He noted that back in 2002, ACTR was staffed by 11 full-time employees and 22 volunteers, working with an annual budget of roughly $700,000. The organization now has a workforce of 33 full-time-equivalent positions, a network of 44 volunteers and an annual budget of around $3 million.
By the end of 2001, ACTR had delivered a total of 200,000 rides in its history. That number had jumped to a million in 2009, and has again doubled in just six years.
“When I got here (in 2002), there were only eight ACTR bus stop signs in the entire county,” Moulton recalled. “Now there are more than 90.”
Three years ago, ACTR was wedged into rented office space in the Community Services Center on Boardman Street. Two years ago, state and federal officials helped cut the ribbon on a new, $4.3 million public transportation hub building off Creek Road that easily accommodates ACTR’s staff and bus fleet.
ACTR currently offers the Middlebury Shuttle Bus; the Tri-Town Shuttle (serving Middlebury, Bristol and Vergennes); the seasonal Snow Bowl Shuttle; the Burlington Link Express (between Middlebury and Burlington via Vergennes); the Rutland Connector (through Brandon); and the Route 116 Commuter (between Middlebury and Burlington via Bristol). The organization still arranges rides for individuals who either don’t live along one of the set routes or are physically unable to ride a bus.
Moulton took some time last week to reflect on the volume of rides that ACTR has dispensed. And he noted that there is a deeper story behind the numbers.
“It’s a lot of rides, and it’s a lot of community impact,” Moulton said. “We are helping people have access to work, schools, grocery stores, medical appointments, cancer treatments, dialysis — and all of these things are included in those 2 million rides. The collective impact of 2 million rides, in my mind, is just enormous, in terms of difference we have been able to make in hundreds and hundreds of people’s lives.”
Moulton relishes the individual stories he hears from regular users of ACTR services. For example, he cited the case of a local single mom who must leave early for work but takes comfort in knowing that her disabled child, accompanied by a companion, will safely get to school thanks to an ACTR bus.
A substantial percentage of ACTR riders are youths and senior citizens, according to Moulton.
“In general, our population is aging, and it is creating more mobility issues for people,” he said of the local demand for public transportation.
ACTR continues to receive requests for more routes within the county, but Moulton said the organization will maintain the status quo, for now. Officials are still deciding on where to temporarily relocate ACTR’s Merchants Row bus shelter in anticipation of the replacement of the two rail bridges in downtown Middlebury. Plans called for the shelter to be transferred to Seymour Street (near the Middlebury fire station), but that idea has been tabled. Moulton explained there have been some neighborhood concerns about such a plan, and ACTR officials note that the further one pushes a key bus stop out of the downtown, the more difficult it is for some riders to get to it.
Once the Middlebury bus shelter issue is resolved, ACTR officials will turn their attention to potential new projects.
“We are proud of the service and look forward to growing it into the future,” Lougee said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].