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Local bus system shifts course

by Shelby Toth
Tue, Mar 5th 2019 10:00 pm

Brockport’s Oliver Middle School hosted one of many Regional Transit Service (RTS) public meetings held across multiple counties on Thursday, Feb. 28. There were over 60 people in attendance, including community members of Brockport and neighboring areas, such as Clarkson.

The meeting was to discuss the changes that will happen to the bus route in Brockport, as part of the transportation service’s newly redesigned system, Reimagine RTS. In the back of the room, multiple experts from RTS were ready to answer any questions from the audience. Chief Executive Officer Bill Carpenter presented most of the information to the crowd, many of whom chattered throughout.

“10 years ago you had a car, or you took the bus,” Carpenter said. “Today, there’s a lot of folks who – seniors, my age, millennials, my kids’ age – don’t want a car.”

He went on to explain that, due to modern day transportation services such as Uber and Lyft, the industry is going through serious upgrades.

“Those kinds of changes have created a new reality for us,” Carpenter said. “As people [began to] take advantage of those options, we’re looking at customers who demand regular, frequent service, consistent service.”

Reimagine RTS is currently on stage two of its five-stage process that began back in 2017. Stage two is identifying solutions for the community mobility zones (CMZ), one of the new concepts being brought to RTS as well as the system hoping to be implemented in Brockport.

CMZ’s are specified areas serviced by RTS that were recommended by consultants brought on to the project. There are three types of services that run in the CMZ’s but only two of which will be running in Brockport. The first of the two is RTS Flex Route. The flex route runs a bus or van in a “consistent route with dedicated bus stops,” according to the presentation. What makes these paths different from a typical bus route is their ability to be changed on the fly. People can ask the bus to come pick them up within three-quarters of a mile from the bus’ typical route. This can be done online or via phone call.

Brockport’s route runs from its main hub at Rochester Tech Park to the area around  Brockport High School, stopping at key places along the way, including The College at Brockport, Wegmans and the Village of Spencerport. The new route would shrink the current area serviced by RTS. The flex route bus service will be offered Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., every 90 minutes.

The other type of service offered in Brockport will be Personal Mobility on Demand (PMOD), which is door-to-door transportation for individuals or small groups. The transportation, in this case, is actually supplied by a third party through RTS, with the goal being to provide service during times with less demand and no bus service. It will be offered Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. as well as 10 p.m. to midnight and Saturday through Sunday from 7 p.m. to midnight.

A big concern when it comes to Reimagine RTS is paratransit. As RTS receives federal funding, it must fulfill Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, which includes fixed routes and route deviated services, according to Carpenter. Under the new system, the area that RTS is required to have paratransit services has shrunk. Because of this, RTS has not decided how to move forward with solving this issue. In fact, final decisions on paratransit will mark the end of stage three in the five step plan.

After the main presentation, the floor was opened to questions. Many people voiced their concerns with shrinking the areas RTS will fully service. Several community members from the other neighboring areas were in attendance and questioned why RTS was not having meetings closer to them.

“They don’t have a meeting for our area, so when we called and asked them about it they recommended we go to the Brockport one, out of proximity,” Hilton community member Cindy Glaser said. “I think we brought enough people with us to make sure that our voice was heard, and from that I think that we will end up getting a meeting out in Hilton to discuss our own issues and not just hone in on the issues that Brockport has.”

At one point during the night, Superintendent of Brockport schools Lesli Myers-Small, stood before the audience and discussed a statement created in collaboration between multiple Brockport stakeholders about Reimagine RTS. The statement was created by Village of Brockport Mayor Margay Blackman, Rochester’s Cornerstone Group Project Manager Ryan Brandt, Brockport Central School District Board of Education President Terry Ann Carbone, Lifetime Assistance Inc. Senior Vice President Ernest Haywood, Town of Sweden Supervisor Kevin Johnson, Brockport Wegmans Store Manager Julie Lenhard, the College at Brockport President Heidi Macpherson and Myers-Small. Within it, the group emphasized that any change to the current public transportation offered should benefit the community, and not harm or take away from the service quality. It also listed a few key areas that they agreed needed to be addressed by RTS.

Overall, there was a diverse set of listeners who attended the presentation, something Carpenter took note of.

“I really appreciated the group of people who came out,” Carpenter said. “There were a lot of RTS customers, a lot of college students, a lot of leaders in the community we have met with previously, all interested in hearing what we had to say. I think what we had to say was very warmly received, received very favorable comments from some of the stakeholders. There’s going to be individuals that, as they understand this, get more excited, and there’s going to be some individuals who say ‘boy, I wish they’d done it better, a little bit differently.’”

Glaser is among those who view the change less favorably.

“I’m disappointed that they are not listening to the riders, and just making general, sweeping statements on how things are going to be rather than asking,” Glaser said. “If they asked the riders, we actually have some pretty good ideas on alternatives that might work better than just removing all the routes all together.”

The goal of RTS is to have the system change to be implemented in the summer of 2020. Until then, community members can expect more meetings to keep them updated on the process, or they can learn more about the change at reimagine.myrts.com.

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Taken by Vinny Croce:
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