ELIZABETHTOWN - "Crossing Communities" is the nickname given to Essex County Transportation's public bus routes, but they will soon be crossing county lines as well.
Starting in March, bus routes operated by Essex County will link with buses in both Clinton and Franklin counties at locations in Keeseville and Ray Brook.
The Champlain North Route, which currently makes stops between Elizabethtown, Willsboro and Wadhams, will soon be extended to Keeseville.
"I'm hoping to have that up and running by [March] 15," said Essex County Transportation Coordinator Nancy Dougal.
The twice daily stops in Keeseville will link with buses operated by Clinton County Public Transportation, effectively extending the route between Elizabethtown and Plattsburgh.
Also by March 15, the Mountain Valley Shuttle, a free Essex County bus that runs between AuSable Forks and Lake Placid, will make stops at the Federal Correctional facility in Ray Brook twice daily, roughly at the same time Franklin County busses arrive there.
Riders can take the Franklin County Adirondack Route bus from Ray Brook north to Malone and points in between. Another Franklin County bus, the southern route, makes stops at the Lake Placid Olympic Center in between stops in Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake.
Dougal said ridership on Essex County's bus system contiues to grow steadily, just as it has since its establishment three years ago. All three of the routes combined are averaging nearly 50 riders per day.
"The hardest part is getting people on the bus," said Dougal. "Once their first trip is completed, 90 percent continue to ride."
Offering the new routes will help many people in previously unserved communities get to doctor's appointments, said Dougal. Issues with Keeseville residents getting to the Smith House Health Center in Willsboro were a major motivator for extending service further north, she said.
"Franklin County is a lot like us," Dougal added. "They have a lot of low income people and have to move them around to doctor's appointments."
Now, Essex County residents along the Mountain Valley Shuttle route will find it easier to get to appointments at Adirondack Medical Center.
For up-to-date schedules for Essex County Public Transportation, contact their one-call center at 1-800-914-9266 or visit www.co.essex.ny.us/CrossingCommunities.asp. Franklin County Public Transportation can be reached at 481-1598 or 1-800-397-8686, and Clinton County Public Transportation information is available by calling 561-1452 or visiting www.clintoncountypublictransit.com.