FULTON, NY – Oswego County Call-N-Ride transportation service keeps on growing. More Oswego County residents than ever are using this curb-to-curb, low-cost bus transport service for the elderly and persons with special needs.
“We’ve been experiencing record numbers of passenger trips since early 2012, and the usage keeps increasing,” said Gary Mashaw, director of transportation services at Oswego County Opportunities, the agency providing the service.
In February, 517 passenger trips were logged – a 14% increase over February 2012 and a 54% increase over February 2011.
2012 was a record year, and 2013 shows signs of being an even busier year with 1,021 passenger trips in January and February alone.
“Just a few years ago we were barely breaking 400 trips for the first two months of the year. This is a significant increase,” Mashaw noted. “Especially considering the changeable and unpredictable winter weather conditions we experience in Oswego County.”
Call-N-Ride completed more than 3,100 passenger trips in 2010. That grew to more than 4,400 in 2011, and more than 6,800 trips in 2012.
The service operates within Oswego County only, Monday-Friday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., with the exception of holidays.
To schedule a ride, those interested may call the toll-free number (1-877-484-3287) between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Reservations must be called in at least three business days in advance of the need.
Cancellations must be called in at least two hours before the scheduled pickup.
The county is divided into five different zones based on school districts, and each zone has Call-N-Ride service available during specific days each week or every other week. Costs range from $2-$4 each way for the elderly and disabled, depending on distance traveled.
“Call 1-877-484-3287 for more information,” Mashaw said. “Or go to one of these websites: www.oco.org or www.forthebus.org.”
Those who use the service often, especially persons with visual impairments, have the option of purchasing bus tokens.
“These can be used for any OCO transportation service,” Mashaw said. “The rider does not have to worry about carrying and counting cash.”
Call-N-Ride was launched in 1999 when the Vision Network of Oswego County partnered with Oswego County ARISE, Oswego County Visually Impaired, Oswego County Opportunities and the Oswego County Legislature to fulfill an important need.
“People who want to retain their independence may not be able to drive due to vision loss or other situations,” said Sabine Ingerson, director of the Oswego County Offices of ARISE. “Call-N-Ride allows them to schedule doctor visits, hairdresser appointments, go shopping, or visit family and friends. They don’t need to rely on others for rides, and they are much less likely to become isolated.”
In the early 2000s budget cuts forced the county to end funding for Call-N-Ride, but the Vision Network managed to keep the service in place through fund raising.
In 2005 Constellation Energy, which is known today as CENG, began funding the service through corporate grants, which continue to this day. The most recent grant award of $30,000 was received in February 2013.
The grant funds help defray costs including fuel, which has steadily increased in price for the past few years.
“This has allowed us to keep costs very low for the riders, which is important for people on fixed incomes,” Mashaw said.
Based on the recent explosive growth in ridership, Ingerson and Mashaw expect more funding to be needed to keep the number of buses needed on the road, pay for fuel, maintenance, etc.
“We’re grateful to the OCVI and Vision Network for advocacy, to Oswego County Opportunities’ Transportation Services, and to CENG for their financial support,” Ingerson said. “It’s all of these groups working together that have made Call-N-Ride possible, and this recent growth in usage makes it all worthwhile.”