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Committee makes plans to expand bus service

ELIZABETHTOWN The Essex County Transportation Committee met in the board of supervisors chambers on Monday, June 9, to discuss the next steps toward expanding public transportation throughout the county. Currently there are eight buses running on five different routes. Transportation Coordinator Nancy Dougal said that six more buses could be added before the end of this year with new routes. A route from Jay to Saranac Lake was recently added thanks to funding from a Job Access and Reverse Commute grant. Meanwhile, goals include consolidating county and town agencies involved with transportation. Dougal also wants to develop a coordinated one call center, making it easier for riders to connect with services. Interest in public transportation continues to rise with ridership up roughly 300 percent in the past year, Dougal said. Im getting more and more calls every day, she said. Dougal suspects that rising fuel prices are playing a big role in the demand for public transportation. Along with several others at the meeting, she expressed concern over the growing number of people who can no longer afford to drive to work. Supervisor Randy Douglas, chair of the committee, said that attitudes about public transportation have changed in recent years. I think [the board] is worried about public transportation now because of the cost effectiveness to our constituents, he said. In addition to expanded bus service, the public transportation department is encouraging carpooling and rideshares with a public rideshare list on the county Web site. Mike LaBello from the state Department of Transportation urged the committee to invest in better marketing for the public transportation program. We need uniform branding of all mobility, said LaBello, It needs a name; it needs a logo. The committee sought input from area businesses on how bus routes can be coordinated to cater to the needs of their employees and customers. Very few employers actually attended the meeting, however. I think they should be concerned with transportation, said Dougal. because its going to be an issue if its not already. Dougal said that coordinating the routes to work schedules is essential. Its hard to develop a route when you dont know where people are going and when they have to be there.

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