New York State will be awarding Ulster County $136,000 to improve and revamp the County’s public transportation system.
Although Ulster is only earning $136,000, 12 other municipalities in the state are earning a part of the $14.2 million distributed this year by the State Department of Transportation’s Public Transportation Modernization and Enhancement Program. According to the Daily Freeman, only two are in the Hudson Valley, while Westchester County was awarded $3 million. This initiative is set to start off a five-year $435 million commitment that will allow for the modernization of current public transportation systems.
“As a full time bus commuter, I applaud any efforts to expand service,” said City of Kingston resident Rose Quinn. “We need a good, safe and reliable transportation system. Fewer cars will save us money and much more. People are not using buses more because the service is not frequent enough and the buses suffer from a PR problem, but they are safe and pleasant. We just need a ton more if we are really going to make a dent in car use.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan toward greener transportation has hopes of a force that will create a plan for “five of the largest upstate and suburban transit systems to electrify 25% of their bus fleets by 2025 and 100% by 2035,” according to the Capital District Transportation Authority.
The Daily Freeman went on to explain that the money is not enough to cover the cost of one electric powered bus, but is a “show of support from the state,” County Executive Pat Ryan said.
In the future, Ulster is looking to add at least three buses to the Ulster County Area Transit (UCAT) fleet. The buses themselves cost approximately $700k-$800k each. The funding for these buses are included within the 2020 capital plan for the County, but each bus is custom made, thus they may not roll onto routes until 2021, Ryan told the Daily Freeman.
Referencing the push towards modernization, riders are also able to download a UCAT app, on either Google Play or the App Store, that “provides real-time location of buses, estimated arrival times, arrival notification, route maps and schedules.”
According to Ulster County’s website, this past July, ridership in UC has increased immensely. Since the July 1 expansion, “UCAT has seen over 2,500 riders in the City of Kingston.” Due to this increase, Ryan had announced the implementation of new initiatives, such as “a new service area, a help hotline, adjusted bus times and a new public outreach campaign.” However, this merger left many Kingston residents on longer commutes, longer walks to bus service and unexpected arrival times.
“People in Kingston have to walk blocks to catch a bus,” said 47-year Ulster County Resident Alicia Williams. “People now have to walk several blocks to catch a bus they were normally used to taking. It just adds extra time [to any commute], and if the buses aren’t running on time everything gets screwed up.”
Williams suffers from Vertigo, so she walks with a cane, making the new bus routes impossible to get to. UCAT does have service for handicapped people, however there is one single van that goes for the entire county for senior citizens to ride.
Although the improvement of these aspects of the UCAT are important to the overall availability and easiness of public transport, they do not reflect the sustainable improvement that the state has now made possible for Ulster and its carbon footprint on our state. On the other hand, residents are disappointed in the lack of frequency the buses currently still have.
“[To get picked up by the paratransit bus, which I need because I am handicaped], you have to call them a week before to set up the date and the time to come pick you up, take you to the appointment and bring you home,” Williams said. “Just like a cab would do, but this whole thing is like the county taking over. It has made it more troublesome trying to try to set up a ride.”