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Dutchess County Evaluating Bus Service Expansion into City of Poughkeepsie
Public Transit System Under Review, Other Options include local service in Beacon

Published: 9/21/2012

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Colleen Pillus

Poughkeepsie, NY… Could there be a benefit for taxpayers if the Dutchess County LOOP Service were to expand into the City of Poughkeepsie and become the sole public bus operator in the City?   The Poughkeepsie-Dutchess County Transportation Council is working with a transportation consultant to find out.    Wendel Companies of Buffalo, New York will conduct a service analysis of the City of Poughkeepsie bus system to compare its services to those already provided by the County and recommend potential timetable and route adjustments to the existing LOOP bus routes to serve City residents perhaps as early as summer 2013.   This analysis is a component of County Executive Molinaro’s Public Transportation Strategic Review.

“As with every area of County Government, we are looking closely at our public transit services to see how we can improve and find greater efficiencies, with the goal of saving our taxpayers money and providing better service,” said County Executive Molinaro. “If, as part of our Public Transportation Strategic Review we can expand our service into the City of Poughkeepsie with minimal cost to the County’s budget, it would be a logical move to simply have one bus system.”

The study, which will be paid for primarily with federal transit funds, will include detailed financial and operational review of the City of Poughkeepsie bus system, including staffing analysis, capital equipment review, and compliance with Federal and State requirements. It will also conduct a service review that will include: comparison of LOOP and City routes and timetables; identification of overlapping or redundant services and potential service gaps; and identification of locations (such as senior/low income housing or hospitals) not currently served by the City that should be included on the LOOP system if the County were to become the sole public bus provider.

It is believed that the consultant’s analysis will show there would be minimal cost to the County to expand services into the City of Poughkeepsie.   Dutchess County already has the infrastructure in place to support bus service.  The additional cost of drivers, mechanics and related fuel costs for expanded service in the City could be offset by fare revenue and the use of existing 5307 federal and matching New York State dollars. Wendel will focus on culling duplicative services and make recommendations for efficiencies in the City routes.  The review is expected to take several months.  If the contractor can make recommendations that meet the needs of current City bus passengers, without adding additional costs to Dutchess County, then the County would consider expanding LOOP bus service into the City by early summer 2013.

“Public transit is very complex and must be in compliance with all Federal and State requirements, since that is where much of the funding comes from.    It is going to take several months to review, but we are looking forward to the possibility of expanding LOOP service into the City of Poughkeepsie,” said Dutchess County Public Transit Administrator Cynthia Ruiz.

City of Poughkeepsie Mayor John Tkazyik said, “Our goal is to always look at ways to save the taxpayers’ money.   If there is an opportunity to save taxpayer money, while maintaining and enhancing our public transit services, it will be beneficial for the City.  We look forward to reviewing the consultant’s final analysis.”

“Our goal is to rightsize the overall size of government to fit the needs of our residents. Although the County would have to expand its investment in bus service, the overall cost is lower than having two separate operators. These are the types of changes that make sense to look at and review,” said County Executive Molinaro.

Dutchess County Public Transit is also working with the City of Beacon to evaluate local service options for the Main Street area of Beacon that would include connections at the Beacon Train Station, Dia, and the Roundhouse at Beacon Falls and enhance existing fixed routes that connect to areas east and north of Beacon.

“We need a consistent service residents can rely on to get to work, to shopping and other destinations. We are very pleased to working with the County and are hopeful of making this service a reality,” said City of Beacon Mayor Randy Casale.

“There has been so much progress in Beacon over the last several years, with a lot of positive economic development and visitor interest in the area.     One missing element is consistent transportation. If we can provide that key link and help keep Beacon moving forward, we want to be able to do it and drive even more economic activity into Beacon,” said County Executive Molinaro.

Additionally, the County will be reviewing its Dial-A-Ride service to determine how to better serve the participating communities and the needs of the individuals who use the service. Flex service, which is a daily service currently offered in areas outside of fixed routes, will also be evaluated to determine if a weekly deviated fixed route service could be offered to in rural areas. This would provide regular access to the population centers for food shopping and medical appointments and connect with existing fixed routes.

Even the LOOP brand is on the table for potential change.  “With so many potential changes ahead for our public transit system, it may be time for a whole new branding - one that better incorporates all of our public transit options such as Dial-A-Ride and flex service, not just the fixed service routes that the LOOP system offers.   Once we have finalized the changes, we will be reaching out to the community to get involved and help us determine how to best rebrand our public transit system to represent all we have to offer.”

“Our goal is to have a sustainable public transit system that links people, jobs and communities, adding to our County’s economic vitality and overall quality of life.  We are looking at strategic changes that will help us better achieve those goals,” concluded County Executive Molinaro.