St. Lawrence County signing contracts to re-establish College Connector bus routes
BY ANDY GARDNER
North Country This Week
The St. Lawrence County legislature’s Finance Committee voted to sign contracts with the four local colleges to re-establish the county public transportation College Connector routes.
The routes had been discontinued at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.The committee took the action during a June 29 meeting held over Zoom and live streamed via YouTube. It will still have to be voted on by the full board before it can be made official.
She said SUNY Canton, SUNY Potsdam and Clarkson University have indicated interest in resuming routes. She said St. Lawrence University may join “at a later date” because of their financial situation, said Matilda Larson, the county’s transportation manager.
“These really are popular routes,” Larson told the legislators. “With schools being back in session, we do want to re-engage.”
Legislator Rick Perkins, D-Potsdam, asked Larson if the colleges contribute, and she said they do. She said two-thirds of the bus system operating budget is from state transportation aid, based on mileage and trips provided. Federal funding picks up about 10% of the operating budget. The College Connector system covers 18% of operating expenses for the transit system and the last 10% is from bus route revenue, according to Larson.
She said the pandemic dealt a huge blow to their ridership, but they stayed open and assisted in food deliveries.
In the first quarter of the year, Larson said they had “the highest ridership numbers in the history of the system,” which included 9,800 one-way trips in February. That dropped to around 6,100 one-way trips in March and 1,500 in April. She said they are projecting 2,800 one-way trips in the first half of June.
During the early months of the pandemic, they also implemented disinfection protocols for buses, put up signs warning riders to wear face coverings and stay six feet apart, and eliminated fares to stop cash transactions.
At the same time, Larson said the buses gave food delivery assistance to elderly shut-ins. They also partnered with the Massena Central School District to bring food to families with no way of traveling to school sites for free meals, she said.
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