Calls to increase funding for Upstate transit system

NY Capitol News

If you have ever tried to take the bus in upstate New York, you know wait times can stretch to 45 minutes and longer, or not even get you to where you need to go.

“People need the service now. They need to get to work now,” Rick Lee, the Chief Executive of CENTRO Syracuse, said.

Funding for upstate transit systems have long been overlooked, and even though ridership is much less than it’s Big Apple counterpart, the MTA, it still faces the same challenges. Aging infrastructure and increased demand.

“We have millennials who are looking to get rid of their car, they want frequent service. We have seniors that have never used transit before, they want to stay in their homes so they’re looking for us to serve areas we haven’t served before,” Bill Carpenter, the President of the New York Public Transit Association and Chief Executive Officer of Regional Transit Service (RTS) in Rochester, said.

In Rochester, Carpenter says spotty service is keeping employers from hiring people.

“Maybe its a second shift job, we don’t have service late for where they need to go and now the job doesn’t work out for them.”

In Buffalo, Tom George says over 80 percent of the city’s population relies on transit services.

“A number of our ridership depend on transit for their lifestyle. Not only to just to go back and forth to work, or for the doctors, or education, but their entire lifestyle is dependent upon the transit system.”

These same issues are echoed in Syracuse.

“It needs to get people to work, to address a lot of issues including the poverty issue we have,” Lee said.

All of these transit CEO’s and other organizations are forming a coalition, saying that this is a problem upstate as a whole is facing.

The coalition is asking for a ten percent increase in funding for upstate transportation services every year for the next five years. With this money, they say they can increase routes and even cut wait times to close to fifteen minutes.

However, this also comes at a time when Republicans and even some Democrats are calling for a permanent cap on two percent spending. But the group is saying that this investment is worth it.

“I think there is a resolve to commit our state to be truly a leader in economic development and that’s how we’re positioning transportation in upstate New York, part of the economic development initiative,” Carm Basile, the CEO of CDTA, said.

Upstate transit services received a 1.98 percent increase in funding this last legislative budget year.

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