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January 10, 2011

 

County looks at expanding bus routes

‘Super Saturdays’ will offer service to outlying areas during trial run

CountyBob Ellis/staff photographer
First Transit bus driver Christopher Strauff boards passengers Friday afternoon outside the Cortland County Office Building on Central Avenue. Seven Valleys Health Coalition and the Cortland County Transportation Advisory Committee are creating a special pilot program called Super Saturdays, running Feb. 5, March 5, and April 2, to determine the viability of expanded Saturday bus service in the county.

By ANTHONY BORRELLI
Staff Reporter
aborrelli@cortlandstandardnews.net

Beginning with the first Saturday in February, Cortland Transit will conduct a trial run of Saturday bus routes to gauge demand for expanded bus service.
The “Super Saturdays” idea sprang from Jan Dempsey of the Seven Valleys Health Coalition, after a study commissioned by the Cortland County Legislature showed a need to expand the service into the weekends and eventually, nights.
Dempsey said the plan is for a bus to shuttle residents to and from the rural areas of the county on Feb. 5 and follow a route that takes them into popular local destinations including downtown Cortland, the Homer Village Green, the Route 281 shopping areas in South Cortland and the Plaza Theater on Tompkins Street Extension.
Two or three Cortland Transit buses would serve areas such as Marathon, Willet, Cincinnatus, McGraw, Scott, Truxton and Virgil, that do not have regular bus routes.
“We’re looking at marketing this as a way for anyone — senior groups, college students, or anyone — to do this as an outing and ride the bus,” Dempsey said. “But we also need to see, can we support it?”
Some downtown businesses have already voiced their support of the Saturday bus route, said Adam Megivern, Cortland Downtown Partnership director.
“We’re hoping to hear from other businesses and them maybe taking a larger role in committing and supporting the cost for it,” Megivern said. “Anytime we can bring new folks into downtown, the better.”
Part of the plan is to offer bus riders a 10 percent discount at participating businesses on the “Super Saturdays,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey said she plans to have a Saturday route for the first weekend of the next three months, which would need about $5,000 in sponsorship to happen.
Those dates were chosen because they coincide with major local events, Homer’s Winterfest on Feb. 5 and Marathon’s Maple Festival on April 2, Dempsey said.
Bus fare is $1 per boarding and 50 cents if passengers are youth, senior citizens, or already have a discount card.
Dempsey hopes to have a stronger funding estimate for the Saturday bus route by later this week. Depending on the first run’s success and enough funding, more weekend routes will be planned, Dempsey said.
“The ultimate goal is to increase the service so people like those with lower income or disabilities can access jobs,” Dempsey said. “Increasing the service on evenings and weekends could help people who work those shifts to get back and forth.”
Cortland Transit operates from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and does not circulate to the outlying county areas.
The Saturday bus idea developed after the county Legislature’s Transportation Advisory Committee adopted a needs assessment study in January 2009, which was conducted by Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates.

 

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