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March 7, 2011

 

County tries new Saturday bus service

By MATTHEW NOJIRI
Staff Reporter
mnojiri@cortlandstandard.news.net

Sharon Johnson and five other seniors from Harford “had a ball” taking advantage of Cortland Transit’s second “Super Saturday” bus service.
Johnson smiled as she and her friends came back from their day out Saturday at Sun Fat Buffet and the Fashion Bug on Route 13 in Cortlandville.
“We had a ball,” Johnson said at the bus stop on Central Avenue in Cortland as she prepared to take the bus home. “It was so convenient.”
Cortland Transit continued its trial run of Saturday bus routes to gauge demand for expanded service. This was the second of three “Super Saturdays,” designed to see if there is enough interest in expanding rural routes and hours of bus service.
Jan Dempsey, mobility management coordinator for Seven Valleys Health Coalition,, said she needs to find sponsors for the third “Super Saturday,” scheduled for April 2.
Dempsey said more people used the rural bus routes this weekend than during the first trial run.
“For some people, this is the only way to get out to the store, to visit friends, to go to doctor’s appointments,” Dempsey said.
The regular rural bus route does not have stops in Virgil, Harford, Scott, Preble or Truxton that are included in the “Super Saturday” program.
The idea for expanded bus service came after a study commissioned by the Cortland County Legislature showed a need to expand the service into the weekends and eventually, nights.
About 10 people used the rural bus service Saturday. The number of fares on the city routes was not immediately available this morning.
It costs about $1,000 to operate the Saturday bus service, Dempsey said.
The Saturday bus routes shuttle residents to and from the rural areas of the county in the morning.
When they arrive in the city, they can choose from two local bus routes that take them to popular local destinations including the Homer Village Green, Cortland Regional Medical Center, the Route 281 shopping areas in South Cortland and the Plaza Theater on Tompkins Street Extension every half hour.
The afternoon routes take passengers back to the rural areas of the county.
“It would be wonderful if we could continue the service one Saturday a month,” Dempsey said. “We’ll be using this information to help us determine where the need is.”
Dempsey said that information could be used in the process of tweaking or possibly expanding the regular bus routes.
She said expanded service could help senior citizens and help lower-income residents get to their jobs.
Cortland Transit operates from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
People who used the “Super Saturday” service received a 10 percent discount at participating businesses, Dempsey said.
Bus fare is $1 per boarding and 50 cents if passengers are youths, senior citizens, or already have a discount card.
Martha Branch and Amy Benedict were among six seniors who took the bus from Harford. They spent their time at Price Chopper supermarket, while the others went to Sun Fat Buffet and the Fashion Bug on Route 13.
“When we heard about the bus route, we jumped at the chance to take advantage of it,” Branch said. “This is something that could be great for seniors.”
Benedict said she hoped the service would continue next month and thereafter. She said a lot of people would be interested in taking the bus from the rural areas to the Maple Festival next month in Marathon.
Harold Strong and Jodie Glazier took the rural bus from McGraw in the morning. They spent Saturday morning at Frank and Mary’s Diner and Blue Frog Café, both in downtown Cortland. They said they would have liked more time in the city, but were thankful for the Saturday bus service.
Without the bus service, they would have needed to take a cab.
“It’s our only means of transportation,” Strong said of the bus service. “It’s something that gives us more independence.”

 

 

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