PROVINCETOWN — Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA) staff spent half an hour on Feb. 13 telling the Provincetown Select Board about the bounty of buses the government-funded organization offers the visitors, residents, and workers of Provincetown.
Aside from pointing out a few gaps, such as early-morning and late-night scheduling that would get restaurant workers in for breakfast and home after the bars close, the select board expressed overall satisfaction with the service.
But human services workers in all four Outer Cape towns say they have heard many complaints about the CCRTA’s service from their clients. A big one: the DART program that the authority claims to offer in all 15 Cape Cod towns does not work for people in Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, or Eastham.
“The Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority provides a daily general public demand response service called Dial-A-Ride Transportation (DART) that is our door-to-door, ride by appointment transportation service,” the RTA website says. “This service is available to all Cape Cod residents and visitors for any purpose.”
Critics say you cannot use the service to get a ride from one’s home in Wellfleet to an eye doctor in Sandwich, for example, nor from one’s front door in Provincetown to Gosnold Behavioral Health in Centerville — at least not in one vehicle or within a reasonable time frame.
If you want to get to the mid Cape, an RTA driver will pick you up at your house but will take you only to a bus in Orleans, which will then take you to Hyannis, where, going to Gosnold, for example, would require a third bus, a CCRTA dispatcher told the Independent. The rides take hours.
Gwynne Guzzeau, executive director of Helping Our Women, a nonprofit that, among other services, assists people with transportation needs, said her organization has “crunched the numbers.” A CCRTA round trip from Provincetown to Hyannis costing $9 for three bus rides would take at least six hours, said Alex Nelson, who is the coordinator of the Outer Cape Community Solutions Network, which includes HOW and some 40 other agencies.
“CCRTA says consistently that door-to-door exists in all 15 towns,” Nelson said. “But I have heard numerous partners say they do not serve this area.”
The network held a first transportation summit on Jan. 26 with staff from Outer Cape Cod’s councils on aging, health agents, nonprofit employees, a police officer, and a Cape Cod Commission planner. The meeting looked at the missing pieces and discussed next steps, including ways to pool resources — with assistance from the RTA, the group hopes.
“There are other creative solutions that the Outer Cape can look into and potentially mobilize independently,” Nelson said. “But that does not negate the CCRTA’s responsibility to ‘provide safe, reliable, efficient, affordable, and environmentally sustainable transit options to all of the residents and visitors,’ ” she said. “Including to our rural towns — that’s their mission.”
In an interview following the summit, Tom Cahir, CCRTA’s director, defended the DART program. “Our DART service has been robust for a long time,” he said. “Sometimes it requires switching onto another bus. But the public transportation is as efficient as we can make it.”
Each town pays an assessment to fund the CCRTA based on a formula that includes the number of riders and bus miles driven, Cahir said. Provincetown’s assessment is $113,199; while Truro, Wellfleet, and Eastham pay about $56,000 each, according to the state Dept. of Revenue.
People over 60 are well cared for with rides provided by towns’ councils on aging. But the need is much broader, Nelson said. For years, the Provincetown Select Board has discussed the problem of unsafe nighttime bike trips and costly cab rides faced by Provincetown workers.
“There are a tremendous number of people who don’t have access to a car,” Nelson said.
To fill the gap, nonprofits spend time and money. The volunteer-run nonprofit Nauset Neighbors, the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, and all of the town senior centers do provide “door-to-door” rides, Guzzeau told the Independent.
Wellfleet paramedics give seniors a “Wellfleetians In Need” or WIN-funded taxi voucher, said Suzanne Grout Thomas, director of the Wellfleet Council on Aging.
HOW’s Office Manager Mary Berry said her organization provides 80 rides per month on average. Drivers include volunteers and some paid staff. HOW also hires Mercedes Cab for people to get to medical appointments. HOW pays the cab company’s “priority rate,” which can be as high as $500 from Provincetown to Sandwich, Berry said.
The RTA does do a lot, Nelson said, including twice-daily $3 rides from Provincetown to Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis through a partnership with Peter Pan Bus Company. In summer, RTA operates buses until 12:30 a.m. out of Provincetown, Cahir told the select board.
But, Nelson said, it’s not enough. One model the network will be discussing is an affordable, publicly subsidized Uber or Lyft service for the four Outer Cape towns.
Cahir told the Provincetown Select Board the CCRTA is already piloting such a program in Barnstable and Yarmouth. It is called SmartDART.
That would be welcome news. “Right now, we don’t have any DART, not even dumb DART,” Grout Thomas said.