Officials, residents debate public transportation
YATES COUNTY--The Yates County Legislature heard a presentation on public transportation during their regular session Monday, May 9. Finger Lakes Community Health CEO Mary Zelazny and President and CEO of the Arc of Yates Daniele Lyman spoke to the legislature about making their transportation services available to the general public, which extends five available routes throughout the county. Nearly 40 people were in attendance during the presentation, with people speaking both in favor and in opposition of the proposition.
Lyman said the Arc of Yates currently has the infrastructure in place and already transports its members along the five routes. The routes have a central hub in Penn Yan and include bus trips to and from the village to Dundee, Dresden, Rushville, Naples and Geneva. Trips would run in the morning and afternoon from Penn Yan to the destination and back with stops along the way, in addition to picking up passengers who flag them down.
Lyman said they have 32,480 passengers annually, with a capacity for an additional 90,720 riders each year. The annual operating cost for the five routes is $313,740, with an anticipated fare of $1 one-way. If approved by the legislature, Lyman estimated it would be six to nine months from the Department of Transportation (DOT) application until the implementation of service.
Lyman anticipated up to 50 percent of their operating costs would be covered by state aid, which also requires a 50 percent local match. She added there is also a chance to receive additional federal aid as well. The Arc's CEO said they would need the county to apply for those funds and send the money to the Arc, who would also cover the matching funds necessary for the aid. Lyman claimed if the county is unable to secure the funds, there would be no public transportation, with the same rule applying if funding were to be cut. She added the Arc provides Medicaid transportation as well, but that is a separate service that would not be a part of the public transportation system.
Zelazny spoke about a survey conducted in April which received 712 responses. Many came from Penn Yan residents -- 344 in total from the village -- with Penn Yan, Geneva and Canandaigua listed as the top three desired destinations. Around 72 percent also said they currently have access to a vehicle as well, with weekdays being the most necessary days for travel from responders.
However, some members of the audience questioned the need and impact the Arc's service would have on the county. Sandy King read a letter from Stan Olevnik opposing the proposition, claiming "the many would pay for the needs of the few." She read Olevnik's claim that the survey was biased, without giving people an option to say they do not have a need, adding the results also overstate the need of public transportation in the county. The letter also cited concerns with the impacts it would have on other transportation services in the area. Teresa Vivier of Keuka Taxi also said the service would take some of the business away from taxi services.
Chris Bailey said the transportation system involves no county or taxpayer dollars, adding the Arc is essentially acting as a private non-profit entity. Michael Leary, CEO of Regional Primary care Network in Rushville, said the county has an opportunity for low-cost transportation with no future risk, adding that many individuals are not able to afford the other methods of transportation in the county.
"You really have nothing to lose and everything to gain," Leary said.
The legislature agreed to discuss the matter in their June committee meetings, but did not take any action in support or against the idea.