Select Board votes to support Sunday bus service with possible 13% contribution increase

May 22, 2024

At its Monday, May 20 meeting, the Select Board made a decision that could assist in the permanent establishment of the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority’s Sunday bus service in Dartmouth. 

Eric Russo, a SRTA administrator, came to the board Monday seeking its support in this initiative, which requires a $115,907, or an approximate 13%, increase to Dartmouth’s current contribution. 

“Sunday service is desperately needed,” Russo said. “Bus service is a utility — it is something that is infrastructure in our communities.”

The service first kicked off on Sunday, January 28, Russo recalls meeting Amazon workers taking their 7 a.m. morning commute on the bus who were excited at the prospect of not having to take a taxi home after their shift. 

Since its start, the program has seen success, Russo said. He highlighted how just a couple weeks ago on a Sunday, the authority served 4,150 people — more than the average Saturday in the fall.

SRTA routes that cover Dartmouth include: Route 9 (Intercity), Route 210 (Dartmouth Mall) and Route 203 (Dartmouth Street).

“Our service has been exploding and it’s really a testament to the need that has always been there,” he said.

He explained that transit authorities are often set up similarly to municipalities, which means they are sometimes subject to the same laws, such as Proposition 2 1/2, which limits how high a tax rate can be increased annually. 

This has made funding the Sunday difficult. However, Russo said there is a “new funding mechanism” that allows the legislature to allocate additional funding to transit authorities to provide this Sunday service. Communities are expected to contribute 50%

Due to a two-year system lag, this wouldn’t hit Dartmouth’s budget until 2027, but the service would be offered before then. 

The transit authority is only drafting its budget now, so Assistant Town Administrator Chris Vitale, who serves as the designee on the SRTA advisory board, has been granted the authority by the Select Board to convey the town’s interest in the establishment of the program permanently.

Russo said he hopes to see this change, adding, “The service that we’re providing on Sundays has absolutely been knocking it out of the park in a way that is even blowing my mind.”