As the Cascade Express — a publicly subsidized commuter bus between Saranac Lake and Elizabethtown — gets ready to hit the road for the first time on Oct. 3, we have a serious problem with the shuttle’s schedule, which overwhelmingly favors public servants rather than the public.
The launch of a new bus route in Essex County makes us take a harder look at public transportation. After all, during this time of economic distress, adding government services is certainly not the norm. And as Gov. Cuomo’s 2 percent tax cap looms over the 2012 budget process, many cuts will be on the way.
Several counties throughout the region now have public transportation networks. They help seniors make trips to shopping centers, government offices and doctors’ appointments. They help commuters get to work in distant villages. They give physically challenged riders more independence.
We understand that demand for bus routes varies, and we hope government officials are paying close attention to the numbers to make sure taxpayer money is not being wasted. Shuttles with strong ridership should stay in operation, while those with low ridership should be phased out.
Now Essex County Transportation will have six bus routes. We have no problem with creating new public bus routes, as long as there is sufficient demand from the general public and there is a way to pay for it.
The Cascade Express certainly has funding. Essex County was successful in getting a federal Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) program grant to help pay for it.
And there is definitely demand, according to Essex County Transportation Coordinator Nancy Dougal. She’s said there were numerous requests for a bus route between Lake Placid and Elizabethtown from county workers and people who use county services.
Helping county workers with a taxpayer-funded bus is fine, as long as the schedule is designed to accommodate those in the private sector as well. Sadly, this is where the Cascade Express falls short.