GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Greater Glens Falls Transit (GGFT) system is what the name implies – greater than just Glens Falls. Hitting parts of Lake George and Queensbury to the north, and Hudson Falls and Fort Edward to the east, the system gets Glens Falls locals to work. It helps them do shopping, and provides extra services during the lake’s busy summers. Looking ahead, it may soon get new help of its own as it helps the community.
At his State of the City address on Wednesday, Glens Falls Mayor Bill Collins announced that the city is in talks to merge the GGFT with the Capital District Transit Authority (CDTA), which operates public transit around Albany, Schenectady, and currently as far north as Saratoga. The merge would help the currently city-run system to thrive, while streamlining the resources that CDTA already shares.
“To have a city-run transportation authority is an anomaly,” Collins said. “It’s really small – as far as transportation systems go, it’s tiny. We’ve struggled over the last several years, especially during COVID, to keep drivers and keep routes going.”
Last month, the city had to suspend three bus routes outright, for the first time in memory, including the pandemic. Routes 4, 11 and 12 – connecting Glens Falls with Hudson Falls and upper Glen Street, respectively – have been halted, and another changed, due to a bus driver shortage that didn’t come out of nowhere.
Gaps in the driver fleet have come up before – and when they have, it’s been CDTA there to lend a hand. The Albany-based transit authority has provided GGFT with drivers for the bright red summertime trolleys that run vacationers and summer workers to the village of Lake George – a need that grew when the pandemic took its own, specific toll on those staff. In 2021, Glens Falls – and Warren County at large – became dotted with green bikes, rentable by app as part of CDPHP Cycle!, a program CDTA operates.
The two groups have been in talks over the merger idea for a while, but much work lies ahead. Details will take time, specifically when it comes to making sure the organization has all the resources to cover a new region. The good news is that none of the staff who keep GGFT running would go anywehre.
“There are a few logistical issues that need to be worked through to make all of this work, but we are definitely prepared to take on the extra routing and service,” said CDTA Communications Director Jaime Kazlo. “A lot of the service will be operated by the vehicles and people GGFT currently employs, so it’s not like they’re starting from scratch.”
Kazlo says that ownership of Glens Falls’ systems wouldn’t make any major changes to the existing routes and times that locals rely on. The CDTA is no stranger to expansion. Last year, the organization expanded service into Montgomery County for the first time, running bus service to the city of Amsterdam. In its first few months, that system has seen steady growth, and the CDTA is still working to increase awareness.
For the city, the merger creates an opportunity for potential future growth that wouldn’t exist otherwise. GGFT is largely powered by state and federal dollars, as well as a small contribution from the communities connected to it.
GGFT also carries a legacy the city wants to protect. The system was founded by the late Ed Bartholomew, former leader of the Warren County Economic Development Corporation and a titan of industry and economic growth in Glens Falls.
“It’s about maintaining thopse services and hopefully growing them over time, but when you’re doing something like this you can’t commit to any growth,” Collins said. “You just want to make sure you don’t limit or eliminate any services over time. That’s what we’re looking to do.”
GGFT connects Glens Falls, South Glens Falls, Queensbury, Lake George, Hudson Falls, Kingsbury, Fort Edward and Moreau. The system transports an estimated 320,000 people or more annually, and operates F.A.M.E., a special express transport service for residents with physical disabilities and mobility restrictions.