OSWEGO, NY – A handful of residents spoke out Tuesday on possible cuts CENTRO is considering. About a dozen people attended a public hearing in the County Legislature Chambers.
The transportation company is facing a nearly $5 million deficit and is looking at reducing bus service to close that gap.
Revenues from state subsidies, which haven’t increased with the cost of operations, are behind the proposed cuts.
Frank Kobliski, executive director of Central New York Regional Transportation Authority explained that most of their revenue streams are generated by Albany or they are controlled by Albany.
“Sixty to sixty-five percent of our funding has been flat or in some cases actually decreased in recent years,” he said. “But we have held our annual expense increase to 2.4% in our operating budget, which I think is a very remarkable achievement.”
Sooner or later, when your revenue is flat, something has to give, he added.
The governor’s budget shows no increase in aid to Centro, so they are working vigorously with the Senate and Assembly to try to rectify that.
Only if there is no help forthcoming would they be forced to make reductions and changes in their operations, Kobliski said.
One option would be to eliminate the Unlimited Ride Pass. In Oswego, last year, that usage amounted to 1% of total fares.
And, the discounted passes for State Fair service will no longer be available, he added.
Sunday services would also be on the block.
The regular fare will not change, the director pointed out.
“We can’t make up this hole with increasing passenger fares,” he said.
“I think eliminating the Sunday service to Oswego would be detrimental to a lot of people. Many use the service to get the train to go home, if they are a student, or to go to the mall. They use the bus to get down and come back,” Donna Scanlon, program coordinator for the county’s Community Development Programs, said. “On Sunday for a student taking the train back from New York City and getting the bus to come back to SUNY Oswego … people are using that service. If it’s not available it will hurt Oswego, SUNY Oswego as well as the county.”
Public transportation in Oswego County is a delicate network, Oswego County Legislator John Proud (District 7) pointed out.
“Many use the bus service to access the DSS office in Mexico and there is a growing Amish population in Mexico, and I know they frequent both the OCO buses and Centro buses, he said.
Curtailing bus service would have a negative impact on the people in rural areas, he said.
“If there is some other way around it besides cutting back on your service to the rural areas, I urge you please look for that,” the legislator said.
“The Mexico service runs Mondays through Fridays and we’re not going to change that,” Kobliski said. “In Fulton, the Saturday service is scarcely used and we are looking at ways as how we could integrate the Fulton service with the Mexico and Fulton bus and make it more efficient, but we’re not there yet.”
What would the number of vehicle and driver reductions be and what percentage of CENTRO’s bus numbers would the proposed cuts represent? asked Dale Currier, the county’s director of emergency management.
“We would probably retain the same number of vehicles because the week day service that goes all around Oswego, all sorts of different routes, would not change; only late at night, one bus impact. All the Syracuse trips, from Fulton would remain. So we would still need all the vehicles up here,” Kobliski replied.
“We have had an agreement with you (EMO) for 30 some years where not only buses from the Oswego garage but other buses in the event of a nuclear emergency would come from Syracuse. That is not going to change,” Kobliski added.
“One thing that is very important for everybody to understand is that we have been working very diligently with our state legislative delegation. Senator (Patty) Ritchie and Assemblyman (Bob) Oaks are very supportive of public transportation and particularly CENTRO. I think it is important for everyone here to reach out to them and let them know that you are also concerned that public transportation is important and should be funded,” said Rick Lee CENTRO’s deputy executive director.
The changes will happen only if CENTRO doesn’t receive the state funding it requested.
CENTRO will hold several more hearings this month, including one at Fulton’s Municipal Building, 4 p.m. on March 19.