Mashantuckets ending subsidy for SEAT bus

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe will stop subsidizing public bus service between New London and the tribe's Foxwoods Resort Casino, which could cause the service to be curtailed, a state transportation official said Wednesday.

The tribe informed the state last month that it will end its support of Southeast Area Transit's No. 108 bus at the end of April. The route, which operates days and evenings, seven days a week, originates on Water Street in New London and includes stops in Groton, at Olde Mistick Village in Mystic and at the casino.

Some Foxwoods employees travel to and from work on the bus.

Without the tribe's subsidy, the state, which provides a grant for the service, might have to cut back on the number of runs, said Mike Sanders, transit administrator for the state Department of Transportation, who briefed local officials at a meeting in Norwich of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments.

Earlier this month, the DOT took over SEAT's management at the request of the nine towns SEAT serves.

Sanders said the tribe gave the DOT the required 90 days' notice of its intention to stop the subsidy. But, he said, he hopes the tribe will agree to extend the funding beyond April 30.

A 25 percent reduction in service would require the DOT to conduct a public hearing on any proposed changes, Sanders said.

The amount of Foxwoods' subsidy was not immediately available.

In a statement, Bill Satti, the tribe's director of public affairs, said the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise continues to analyze its day-to-day operations.

"One area under review was the off-site transportation and usage by employees," Satti said. "Since opening up parking lots on property to our employees we have seen a substantial decline in employees using this service and opted to discontinue funding the 'public transportation' system."

Foxwoods, which used to provide Peter Pan shuttle-bus service for many of its southeastern Connecticut workers, cut back on service from commuter lots in Groton and North Stonington in 2010 and ended all employee shuttles, including a run from Norwich, a year ago.

Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville also is served by a SEAT run. The Mohegan Tribe, which owns the casino, pays half the town of Montville's SEAT costs, according to Chuck Bunnell, the tribe's chief of staff.

"The Tribal Council decided to do it years ago because of our outstanding relationship with the town and because so many of our employees use the service," Bunnell said. "It's strictly voluntary."

Last year, the tribe's share of the town's SEAT contribution was about $7,800, he said.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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