Poughkeepsie… Major customer service improvement changes to the Dutchess County LOOP bus mass transit service apparently have to wait until late 2009 due to Democrat Majority Leadership refusal to discuss the issue at the August 11th Legislative Board Meeting.
“Unfortunately, this is yet another example of the Democrat Majority unwillingness to compromise or even discuss important issues that would benefit our county residents,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “Putting roadblocks in front of plans to improve bus service demonstrates partisan pettiness and only punishes the people who want and need to ride the LOOP buses.”
The Department of Planning & Development presented a new Transit Development Plan (TDP) for the LOOP bus system to the Dutchess County Legislature in July. The TDP is designed to streamline the LOOP bus route structure, expand evening and weekend service, and improve connectivity with the City of Poughkeepsie system. The plan would also provide flexible, reservation-based “flex service” for every Dutchess County community. The Planning Department, along with other transit and community partners, has been working for more than 18 months on the development of the new TDP. The TDP is a major service change for the LOOP bus system and will take nearly a year to implement. Intensive implementation work requires the need for staff reorganization in order to meet the ambitious implementation schedule.
A resolution to establish two new positions in the Division of Public Transit in order to implement the new service proposals and to improve oversight and monitoring of Mass Transit activities was submitted to the Legislature in July following the presentation of the Transit Development Plan. The resolution requested the Legislature to release $48,500 from the total funding of $241,000 available that had been put aside last December for 5 Mass Transit positions. During the development of the TDP, the Planning & Development Department successfully reorganized staffing needs to only require the two positions requested.
Resolution #208236 was on the Committee Agenda released by the Legislature on August 5th to be discussed at the Budget, Finance & Personnel Committee meeting. However, on August 6th, Legislative Chairman Roger Higgins pulled the resolution and refused to allow the discussion. County Legislator Gary Cooper attempted to bring the resolution to the floor for discussion at the August 11th board meeting but was blocked by Democrat Majority Leader Sandra Goldberg.
According to Commissioner of Planning & Development Roger Akeley, the decision to not bring the matter to a vote will cause paralysis in the department’s ongoing efforts to implement the TDP. “I understand the current economic climate and I held off as long as possible requesting these positions. However, Mass Transit is a significant cost to the County (nearly $3 million dollars) and we need to have the necessary resources to manage it efficiently and productively. We are doing everything we can to improve to the day-to-day management of LOOP to be prepared for increased usage as more and more residents look for ways to save fuel costs.”
Dutchess County Legislature Chairman Roger Higgins made some public comments in a recent letter to the editor where he congratulated the newspaper’s editorial endorsement of the County’s proposed changes in its Mass Transit including the LOOP system. Yet, only days before the letter was published, the Chairman blocked the ability for the County to actually make progress on the changes. In the same letter, the Chairman also supported the call for “RailLink” routes to serve Poughkeepsie, New Hamburg and Beacon train station while failing to acknowledge the Dutchess County Commuter Train Connection (CTC) has been in place since 1994 and serves each of the three train stations. Assistant Commissioner of Planning & Development Kealy Salomon had noted in her presentation to the Legislature that these commuter/train station connections would continue and be renamed “RailLink” to better identify the service and attract new users.
County Executive Steinhaus expressed his surprise and disappointment over the Chairman’s refusal to even discuss the issue at the board meeting. “I thought we all had the same goal … to improve our LOOP bus service for our residents who rely on the bus to get to work, to school or wherever they need to go, but apparently the Democrats’ only goal is partisan obstructionism. This new Transit Development Plan is an opportunity for other residents to change their driving habits and utilize the LOOP as a transportation alternative to save gas and behave greener. It is a shame that residents who provided valuable feedback about planned customer service improvements for the Dutchess County LOOP bus system have been ignored by the Democratic Legislative Majority Leadership.”
“Delaying a plan to help our residents, refusing to compromise or even discuss an issue that is so important is not how good government works and it is unfortunate that is how the Democrats have chosen to operate,” concluded County Executive Steinhaus.