PROVINCETOWN — Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA) leaders assured the select board on Feb. 13 that they could run a pilot late-night and early-morning bus service this summer for people who need affordable rides to and from jobs working in bars and serving breakfast.
But 48 hours later, Assistant Town Manager Dan Riviello, select board member Leslie Sandberg, and Stephen Katsurinis, a member of the business community — who were all on the same call — heard a completely different story from the CCRTA. An agency staff member told them “unequivocally” that labor agreements and driver shortages would make such bus service impossible, Sandberg told the Independent.
“Why on earth did they not tell us that on Monday night?” Sandberg said. “We wish they had leveled with us when the cameras were rolling.”
There is now a $100,000 article on the April 3 town meeting warrant to hire drivers to use a Provincetown Schools bus to make runs May through October from Provincetown to Eastham for early-morning and late-night commuters. It combines a town subsidy with contributions from business owners, though the details are not yet worked out, according to Riviello.
Two weeks after the warrant was printed, on March 20, CCRTA Administrator Tom Cahir made another U-turn.
After not responding to multiple calls from the Independent, Cahir told the newspaper on March 17, “Maybe I dropped the ball. This is the first I have heard of a late-night route.”
On March 20, Cahir called town hall staff to say he had “misunderstood” what the board wanted. He agreed to offer two new bus runs, one going to Provincetown at 4:45 a.m. and another that would leave Provincetown at 2 a.m. The added runs would begin June 23 and end Sept. 4, Sandberg said.
The select board originally put the article on the warrant because of the CCRTA’s flip-flop in February. Sandberg said they are going to keep it there for the same reason.
“If the CCRTA can indeed do June through September, great,” she said. “We will use the town meeting funds to offer the service from May and through October because that is really our season.”
A review of the select board’s Feb. 13 meeting with CCRTA’s Cahir, assistant general manager Fred Valdivia, and general manager John Kennedy shows Valdivia explaining the current bus runs and describing low ridership on the late-night runs.
Nonetheless, Valdivia added, “We’re able to look into a pilot program.”
“I’m pretty confident we can probably do something,” Cahir added.
“We just need to know by Feb. 27,” Sandberg responded. “Our warrant closes on March 3.”
Sandberg then asked if CCRTA would like a subsidy from the town. Cahir declined, saying, “I am confident that we can come up with some sort of pilot. And the local assessment has gone up two and a half percent for the last 14 years. That’s fine.”
“Two days later, it was a 180-degree difference,” Sandberg said.
The Independent reported on Feb. 24 another case where the CCRTA said one thing and did another. The nonprofit’s website advertises dial-a-ride transport (DART) as a “door-to-door service” that is available in all 15 Cape towns. But in reality, from Provincetown through Eastham, the DART program will take passengers only from their homes to a bus in Orleans. Human services organizations are now discussing pooling money to create a localized service with or without help from the CCRTA.