Marked for extinction after a three-year run, the county’s fledgling public transportation effort that serves roughly 32 riders daily is getting a reprieve from operator Brown Coach.
County supervisors in August decided not to request grant money to keep the system running past December, with some saying the county shouldn’t be in the transportation business.
That move saved the county an estimated $29,000 in matching funds but would have led to a $188,712 bill from the state, which paid for the county’s two buses and would be in line to get that money back if the service were canceled. The bus route transports residents from as far west as St. Johnsville to stops in Fonda and Amsterdam, as well as to Fulton-Montgomery Community College.
The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved the deal with Brown to operate the Montgomery Area Express — popularly known as the MAX. Neither will pay the other any money, and as long as the buses remain in service, even with another operator, the county won’t have to repay the money to the state.
The county’s Economic Development and Planning Department will continue administrative duties under the plan, so there will be some cost to the county, senior planner Doug Greene said Thursday.
“It’s good for us and it’s especially good for FMCC students and the people who are using the bus,” he said.
With a professional transportation company now at the helm, Greene said it’s likely the MAX, through advertising, will be able to generate revenue.
Advertising was one element of plans for boosting usage that never came to fruition.
“That’s always been an intention, to promote the bus more. We have always felt that it could certainly raise the ridership and revenues and work towards making it more self-sufficient,” Greene said.
Striving for a system that pays for itself is an important goal since there’s no guarantee state and federal funding will remain at current levels.
“There’s an idea this money may not be there forever,” he said.
General Services Committee chairman and Charleston town Supervisor Shayne Walters said the agreement puts the system in the hands of professionals, instead of the government.
“When the MAX started, I’d always hoped it would be taken over by an operator,” he said.
There are provisions in the state and federal grant programs that leave room for operators themselves to draw in a profit, something officials said the county wasn’t able to do.
“If they can generate revenue to offset the cost of those buses, that’s the American way right there,” Walters said.
Efforts to reach Brown Coach representatives were unsuccessful.
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Categories: Schenectady County