Oswego Public Transit Needs to be Consistent and Fair

To the Editor:

Oswego Public Transit – which is under the umbrella of Oswego County Opportunities – has limited bus service in Oswego County. The company charges what is called a “deviation fee” should one of their drivers need to go off route…..even for a short distance. This policy has not been enforced until the past couple of weeks.

Oftentimes, OPT drivers would drop off or pick up passengers at the door of a variety of locations including Aldi’s and Kinneys. This would be done especially for those passengers who are elderly or disabled and if they have a lot to carry. And, of all the times I observed various drivers doing this, I never saw any of them – with one exception which I will get into later – charge an extra fee. They do it as a public service.

The deviation fee is the same amount as the base fare. In other words, disabled and elderly passengers would normally pay the special rate of seventy five cents per trip. But, if they require a “deviation,” they would pay a total of $1.50 for the “privilege” of being dropped off or picked up where needed. The base fare for everyone else, by the way, is the same amount.

Most of the OPT drivers I’ve come to know during the past six years are awesome folks who care a great deal about the people they serve. Many of them will go above and beyond the “call of duty,” so to speak, and help passengers get their groceries to the door, or help them get their belongings on the bus, etc. Then there’s one driver in particular who does the bare minimum, has to do everything “by the book” and is not at all pleasant. And, this person has been known to speak ill of some passengers. This driver makes absolutely certain that every penny of that deviation fee is collected when applicable.

This driver’s attitude seems to be reflective of what the company thinks of the people they’re supposed to be serving.

What’s up with OCO’s decision to suddenly enforce this policy? Is it because of the high cost of fuel? If so, why impose a fee that will be largely paid by the disabled and elderly? Able-bodied people don’t have to worry about this fee, but those with limited mobility do. Why not just raise the base fare for all passengers so that the cost will be borne equally?

When the deviation issue came up I called OPT and spoke with a supervisor. I explained about my medical issues and why at times I need to be dropped off at my building, which is less than a driveway’s length from the route. This supervisor suggested that I get a wagon and leave it at the end of the intersection of my road and the bus route. Then, at the end of the day when I would return several hours later, I could place my groceries in said wagon and wheel it home. Nice idea except for one problem: with recent thefts in this area, that wagon wouldn’t be there an hour after being left unattended! I had to laugh at her ridiculous idea. Gmab!

OPT needs to be consistent with how fares are applied. When this issue came up last year, the deviation fee was let go. Now it is being reinstated. Many passengers believe that it applies only to those whose deviation would be at least one mile. Now it applies to everyone, even if the deviation is only a couple hundred feet! To add to the confusion, when one of my friends spoke with the very same supervisor at OPT, he was told it’s up to the driver as to whether or not this fee would be imposed.

In other words, if the driver feels that where the passenger needs to get off is in a dangerous location (such as Rte 13 in Pulaski), that driver can drop off that person where it’s convenient. That passenger wouldn’t be charged the deviation fee. On the other hand, if the passenger requests the deviation, that’s a different story.

OPT, in my opinion, is poorly run. The service is very limited, there are no buses on nights or weekends, and their stand on certain policies keep changing. This latest issue over the deviation fee is making me feel like staying home. Because of the issues I mentioned, especially with regard to that driver with the bad attitude and the deviation policy, it’s just so not worth it. Oswego Public Transit does not accept public input!

Diana Manwaring
Pulaski, NY