March 15, 2019
Two members of the Regional Transit Service (RTS) team today testified on the importance of public transportation in rural communities and the significant impact increased funding will have on rural economies. Representing RTS at the hearing was Kelly Fitzpatrick, the Regional Manager for RTS Livingston and RTS Wyoming, and Aimee Rader; the Operations Manager for RTS Wyoming. The joint public hearing was held by the New York State Senate Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities & Commissions, the New York State Senate Standing Committee on Transportation, and the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Transportation.
Following is the testimony Fitzpatrick and Rader submitted orally and in writing, as prepared.
Oral Statement of
Regional Manager, RTS Livingston and RTS Wyoming
Manager of Operations, RTS Wyoming
On behalf of Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA) at the Joint Public Hearing of the Senate Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation, and the Assembly Standing Committee on Transportation
To Examine the Effectiveness of New York State's Transit Networks
Friday, March 15, 2019
Buffalo City Hall
Thank you Chairman Comrie, Chairman Kennedy and Chairman Magnarelli, for giving RGRTA the opportunity to testify today, and for your leadership on public transit issues.
My name is Kelly Fitzpatrick; I am the Regional Manager for RTS Livingston and RTS Wyoming, two of the subsidiary companies of RGRTA.
And I am Aimee Rader; the Operations Manager for RTS Wyoming.
We are here today on behalf of our CEO, Bill Carpenter, our colleagues, and our customers to talk about the importance of public transportation in New York’s rural communities and the significant impact increased funding will have on rural economies.
We would like to begin our remarks by thanking Governor Cuomo for recognizing the importance of public transportation in his executive budget. Not only did he propose a much-needed increase in state operating aid, he included a dedicated revenue source to pay for it.
We also thank you, Chairman Kennedy and Chairman Magnarelli, for expanding the Governor’s proposal in your respective One-House budgets. The level of funding you have proposed is much more in line with what is required to meet the needs of our customers and the communities we serve.
We would like to share with you who those customers are, where they live, and what their day-to-day reality is like.
In addition to serving Rochester and Monroe County, we also serve seven regional counties. Adjacent to the NFTA service area, we provide public transit for Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming counties, as well as Livingston, Ontario, Seneca and Wayne Counties. That is almost 200 RGRTA employees, serving a population of nearly 340,000, with ridership over 835,000 each year.
Public transportation is a key driver of success in our communities. We are affordable, we make every effort to provide excellent service to our customers, and the route-deviation based service we provide meets the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Given the nature of the economies in these rural areas, public transportation is the only form of access to jobs, education, healthcare and basic necessities for many of our neighbors.
One of the challenges of operating a transit system in rural communities, with constrained funding, is meeting demands for those who need to travel from community to community. When traveling through the heart of a town or village like Dansville or Warsaw, there are bus stops located at key destinations. But when traveling from town to town, there could be anywhere from eight to 30 miles between bus stops, which makes it challenging to meet some of the most basic of daily needs. Here are a few examples of how customers experience our system.
In Livingston County, we have a customer who has relied on our service for more than 10 years. Prior to using public transit, she would ride her bicycle from Lima to Avon to get to work. It is a ride of just over seven miles. She was hit by a car one morning on her way to work and after sustaining life-threatening injuries, she decided to use public transportation to get to and from work. She has to catch the bus more than an hour earlier than her start time and she waits up to an hour and 15 minutes after her shift ends for her trip home. Without the service we provide, she would no longer be able to work. The lack of frequency throughout the day and the amount of time she has to wait for the bus makes it difficult for her to have the kind of flexibility and access to other destinations that she needs.
We have a similar example in Wyoming County, and it involves our longest riding customer. He has been riding with RTS Wyoming since we were established in 1993. He is visually impaired and relies on us to get him to work every day. Unfortunately, he cannot ride home with us because the timing of our route between Perry and Warsaw doesn’t work for his schedule. With our current funding and the level of frequency it provides, he would have to wait an hour and 15 minutes after he finishes work for us to pick him up and take him home. Instead, he currently gets a ride home from a co-worker. Increased transit funding for this customer means he could rely on transit for all the work trips he needs to take without having to rely on the schedule and generosity of others.
As we just described, having to travel long distances and help our customers access the most common of destinations is difficult to do with the kind of frequency that many rely on and expect. Our customers love our flex routing and they love our bus operators. But with the funding we currently have, we can only serve certain areas a few times each day.
This is why we need your help and it is why we are here today. Our customers deserve the best possible service we can provide and it shouldn’t matter if they live in urban, suburban or rural areas. It shouldn’t matter if they are farmers, teachers, students, senior citizens, or people with disabilities.
As a public authority created by the State of New York – and we will be celebrating our 50th anniversary on May 26th this year – we have an obligation to be responsible stewards of taxpayer funds and provide them with the best possible return on their investment.
With state government renewing its commitment to public transportation through the budget proposals you have put forth, we can achieve that goal.
As you know, our work doesn’t end with the One-House budgets. Now is the time for us to work together to reverse the trend of past budgets and ensure the increased level of funding you have proposed is what we see in the final budget.
We thank you again for the opportunity to speak today and look forward to our continued work together.
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