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Letter to the editor: Middlebury business group urges move of bus stop

Dear Middlebury selectboard members,
As an organization responsible for collectively voicing concerns and interests of Middlebury’s businesses community, the Better Middlebury Partnership respectfully urges you to carefully reconsider the permanent placement of an ACTR bus stop in front of the post office on Main Street in downtown Middlebury.
Already, the downtown has lost 12 parking spots due to the construction project, with another five spots to be lost intermittently throughout the 2018 construction period. Merchants and restaurants (as well as other downtown businesses and organizations) regularly cite access to parking as their number-one concern. As a community trying to support these businesses, through what has already been and will continue to be a challenging time, we need to preserve every parking space available whenever possible.
We strongly believe that ACTR is an invaluable local resource that provides essential services to our community, however, we urge the town of Middlebury to explore alternative bus stop locations that do not impact the most premium parking spaces our downtown has to offer locals and visitors. While there is a pull off for buses in front of Cannon Park/Ilsley Library as an alternative, still within the downtown and only 900 feet of flat, well-lit sidewalk away from the bank and post office … there are frequently very few, if any open parking spaces to be found during business hours within 900 feet of these parking spaces. We believe that lack of access to easy, convenient parking has a direct, negative impact on the local businesses. People who have a choice simply choose to go elsewhere or shop the ever-increasingly easy online option.
We understand that ACTR riders are also customers of downtown businesses and that they are often also making a transportation choice that is socially and environmentally conscious … and that the more people who choose to use public transportation, the more relief Middlebury’s parking will experience — and to that end, we think that public transit options should be made as convenient as possible. However, we strongly believe that there is a solution to be found that can encourage transit ridership without coming at the expense of downtown parking spaces that are so desperately needed at this time more than any other in our recent history.
The BMP has heard countless complaints from businesses owners, shoppers, visitors and residents about the challenges of parking in Middlebury’s downtown. This is an access problem that is costing our downtown businesses money as well as deterring visitors and locals alike from conveniently feeling connected to our downtown. Given the feedback we have collected from community partners, we feel the decision to permanently remove further access to downtown would be a poor decision and will negatively impact downtown businesses. We urge you to relocate the ACTR stops and restore the parking spaces across from the post office, which have proved to be necessary for the vibrancy of our downtown.
Thank you.
Karen Duguay, on behalf of the Board of the Better Middlebury Partnership

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