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Buses to link county at both ends

Buses to link county at both ends

Starting Monday, after discussions some say have lasted 15 years, a new transportation system will p

Starting Monday, after discussions some say have lasted 15 years, a new transportation system will provide a link between the eastern and western parts of Montgomery County.

Montgomery County bus service

To view routes and schedules for the new Montgomery County bus service, click here.

Coordinated with the existing Amsterdam Transit service, the Montgomery Area Express, or MAX, will serve commuters and shoppers Monday through Friday.

In an effort to serve as many people as possible, a special run on Fridays will stop in the town of Glen to accommodate the Amish community.

The lack of transportation has been cited as a barrier for people looking for work and a major expense for those paying for rides to government offices and health care facilities.

Two small buses, operated by Brown Transportation, will pick people up at the Kinney Drugs store at 12 Park Place in St. Johnsville and drop them off as far east as the Riverfront Center in Amsterdam.

The first bus to head eastward is expected to arrive at the Park Place drug store at 5 a.m. Monday. Stops on the way east will include the Save-A-Lot grocery store in Fort Plain, the Price Chopper in Palatine Bridge, the Patriot and NBT banks in Canajoharie, the post office in Fultonville and then the Montgomery County office building on Broadway in Fonda.

From there, people headed further east will transfer to another MAX bus, which will stop at St. Mary’s Hospital before heading to the Riverfront Center in Amsterdam.

On Fridays, the bus run that starts in St. Johnsville at 8 a.m. will make the same stops until it gets to the banks in Canajoharie. The bus will then head east along Route 5S, turn off on Argersinger Road in Glen to pick up Amish travelers, then get back onto 5S to complete the run to the Montgomery County office building in Fonda, arriving at 9 a.m.

Benefit to many

Montgomery County Senior Planner Douglas M. Greene, who organized the system’s development, said the new service was designed to cater to anybody who might benefit, including the Amish.

“I think one of the major issues in transportation planning ... especially when you’re talking about public transportation, is making it as convenient and as usable as possible for as many people as efficiently and effectively as you can,” Greene said.

Greene said he met with a group of Amish in the new communities in the towns of Root and Glen and they were interested in the service.

It’s difficult for the Amish to travel to town with their horses and buggies, and Fridays turned out to be a decent day for a route diversion, he said.

“They expressed a need for transportation ... if they picked a day of the week that would be a good day of the week to do banking and errands, it would be Friday,” Greene said.

Greene said as the system progresses, he hopes to get diversions for the other Amish communities, such as those in the town of Palatine.

The buses are handicapped accessible.

Amsterdam options

The eastbound bus that arrives at the Montgomery County office building will leave passengers there to pick up an Amsterdam Transit bus, which heads east and arrives at the Riverfront Center in Amsterdam at 9:15 a.m.

Possibilities are further expanded for the public at that point because Amsterdam Transit travels to major employment and shopping centers on Route 30 in the town of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Transit Director Cheryl Scott said it’s likely the city system will see an increase in passengers with the new link to the western part of the county.

“Certainly we’re looking at it to increase our ridership and our revenue,” Scott said.

Scott said she envisions Amsterdam Transit serving passengers through the new link to the west, picking them up at the Riverfront Center in Amsterdam and taking them up Route 30.

The Route 30 corridor is home to several shopping locations, including Wal-Mart, Price Chopper, Home Depot, Lowe’s and numerous eateries. A new Target retail outlet is being developed there as well, and Amsterdam Memorial Hospital, a major employer, is also on Route 30.

“I can only see this rapidly expanding,” Scott said.

A one-way trip from Fonda to Amsterdam will cost $3; a round trip will be $6. The fare from Fonda to Canajoharie will cost $1 one way or $2 for a round trip.

A countywide run starting in St. Johnsville and ending in Amsterdam will cost $5 one way and $10 for a round trip, according to a schedule brochure that can be downloaded from the Montgomery County Web site, located at www.co.montgomery.ny.us.

A monthly “Freedom” pass will offer unlimited rides on the MAX system for $50. People interested in those passes can buy them at the Brown Coach office at 50 Venner Road in Amsterdam or by request on the bus itself.

MAX buses will deviate from their regular routes by up to 3⁄4 of a mile for people unable to get to a scheduled stop. Those interested in reservations can call Brown Coach at 843-4700.

Long time in coming

Brown Coach President Robert Brown said he recalls talk about extending service to western Montgomery County for the past 15 years.

“We’re looking forward to getting it going; if the need’s out there, let’s meet the needs,” Brown said.

Brown said the price of fuel and other strains on people’s budgets makes the new service a timely initiative.

“It’s a good time to get it going,” Brown said.

Officials describe the system as a work in progress, and they are prepared to make changes, if necessary, in the schedule.

The county’s Board of Supervisors last fall approved a contract with Brown Coach to operate the system for one year for $243,097.

It’s unclear yet exactly how much federal and state assistance will go toward the system, but officials believe it could cost the county $100,000 when other forms of help come through.

There is a chance Montgomery County could realize other savings with the system in place, including in Medicaid transportation. County Social Services Commissioner William Cranker said the county spent about $40,000 in 2007 providing transportation under the Medicaid program. Some of that cost may be lessened with use of the MAX system, Cranker said.

“We’re going to try to explore utilizing them for transportation for medical appointments,” Cranker said.

The department uses three vans to take people to area hospitals, including Albany Medical Center Hospital, Ellis Hospital, Bassett Hospital and other sites in Little Falls and Utica, Cranker said.

“I think this is going to fill in and make it a lot easier for those in the county who need to have access to Medicaid transportation,” Cranker said.

Greene said that now that a system is established, the next step is getting people familiar with it and promoting the use of public transportation.

“That’s one of the biggest obstacles we have to overcome, to get people to give public transportation a chance as opposed to using their private cars,” Greene said.

Greene said that with high gas prices, some families could trade a second car for bus service.

“By getting rid of a car, it’s a savings of between $3,000 and $4,000 per year, including gas, insurance and maintenance,” he said. “It’s really huge, and that can have a significant savings for a family on a tight budget, so it makes a lot of sense.”

Greene said peace of mind could be another factor motivating people to take the bus.

“Someone else is driving — you can read a book. It’s not stressful,” Greene said.

The MAX service will be running Monday, but the Amsterdam Transit leg will not be operating due to the Presidents Day holiday.

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