SOUTHINGTON — Members of the Commission on Disabilities are hopeful a recent survey and report from a regional organization will convince the Town Council to get behind ending the town’s 47-year run without public buses.
George Pohorilak, treasurer of the Commission on Disabilities, shared recent survey results with the council last week that found transportation was one of the highest priorities for residents with disabilities.
Pohorilak recalled one father telling him his son spends $24 a day on Uber rides back and forth to work. He said other residents with disabilities have said they’ve been advised to move out of Southington if they want public transportation services.
”Able-bodied people could use the resources as well,” Pohorilak said. “It can open up a lot of opportunities.”
Having public transit routes in place also makes the town eligible for para-transit services that would allow someone within a three-quarter mile radius from a bus route to be picked up.
A Capitol Regional Council of Governments study released last month also recommends expanding Department of Transportation bus service through town, completed in three separate phases. Phase I provides service, at no additional cost, from Plainville into Southington along Route 10 across West Queen Street to West Street and then into Bristol.
”This is a partial restoration that does little to render relief to the underserved/unserved disabled community in Southington,” Pohorilak said. “They said nobody would ride the bus, but you don’t know that. Not everybody has a car.”
A proposed Phase 2 solution would bring service into the town center over to Plantsville and the park and ride lot and then up West Street to Bristol. It also comes with an 11 percent additional cost.
“That option is supported by everyone who has had an opportunity to review the plan,” Pohorilak said in a statement. “It is time to restore bus service and equal access for the disabled to the town of Southington.”
The CRCOG study area began in 2015 and included Berlin, Bristol, New Britain, Plainville and Southington. The document serves as a planning tool for future CTtransit bus service in the New Britain-Bristol division.
Any service changes would need approval by the DOT. Connections to other services would be available in downtown Bristol, the Lake Avenue and Plainville park and rides and Connecticut Commons in Plainville. Study authors said there is a need for transit in the downtown Southington area, where there are some seniors and low-income residents without cars.
The town currently has Calendar House Dial-A-Ride vans, funded by a state grant, to provide the elderly with rides to doctors’ offices and other errands. But they only run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and require 48 hour advanced notice, Pohorilak noted.
The issue of buses has not been a big topic of need, Town Councilor Dawn Miceli said last month after the CRCOG report. After hearing Pohorilak, she suggested Town Council Chairman Christopher Palmieri would decide if it’s something the council wants to look into further.
Palmieri Wednesday echoed Miceli, saying he had not heard about a need for additional transit options, but said it may be something the town looks into in the future.
“I think we have a very successful program,”Palmieri said. “Aside from that, I’m not sure what the need is.”
.Pohorilak hopes the Town Council will get behind the idea.
Calendar House Director Robert Verderame acknowledged that the vans have limited hours, and backs any increase in public transit
. “Anything that can help, especially if they are going on Saturday and Sunday” Verderame said. “ It’s a good thing.”
Economic Development Director Lou Perillo is no longer a representative of CRCOG but he expects the need for public transit will grow as Southington becomes more densely populated.