(WATERTOWN, N.Y.) – Plans for a county-wide transportation system in Jefferson County are moving forward.
The effort – led by Volunteer Transportation Center, Inc. – was started earlier this year and included a series of public input sessions across the county in September to give community members opportunities to share what they need to see with a county-wide system.
John H. Exford, who serves as Jefferson County Mobility Manager, oversaw the sessions and said they provided extremely useful feedback.
“We had our first round of community input sessions to collect data and hear from the residents of Jefferson County and it was great to learn what they needed, ” said Mr. Exford. “We’ve compiled that data and have come up with draft routes for the public transportation system.”
When the process began earlier this year, Mr. Exford began meeting with representatives of human service agencies, medical facilities, places of employment and senior housing complexes. The first round of public input sessions followed and now, with that data in hand, another round of input sessions will be held.
“Now, that the first draft of the routes are complete, we would like to know what the community thinks – positive and negative,” said Mr. Exford. “When we finish this round of input sessions, we will take the suggestions from the public and continue to work on the bus routes.”
Continuing to solicit feedback and use it to fine tune the transit system before a formal plan is finalized is critical, he added.
“We want this to be a transportation solution that will be able to help as many people as possible and be a true resource for Jefferson County,” said Mr. Exford. Community members will be able to share that information at the public input sessions, starting Tuesday, Nov. 15. Sessions will be held on the following dates and times at the following locations:
• 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15 – Grandview Courts Apartments, 40 N. Broad St., West Carthage
• 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16 – BOCES Administrative Building, 20104 Arsenal St., Watertown
• 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16 – Jefferson Community College Jules Amphitheater, 1220 Coffeen St., Watertown
• 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 17 – Sackets Harbor Heights, 211 Woolsey St., Sackets Harbor
10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 18 – Gordon Courts Apartments, 39 Bolton Ave., Alexandria Bay ***POSTPONED DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER***
• 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22 – Gordon Courts Apartments, 39 Bolton Ave., Alexandria Bay ***RESCHEDULED FROM NOV. 18***
Citi-Bus will provide transportation to the Nov. 16 meeting at BOCES, with drop-off at 12:40 p.m. and pick-ups at 2 p.m. and 2:40 p.m. Para-transit transportation will also be available. For the Nov. 16 meeting at JCC, Citi-Bus will provide drop-off at 5:10 p.m. and a bus waiting to depart at the end of the session. Para-transit transportation will also be available for that session.
“Over the next several months we will continue to utilize the community’s input to come up with the best possible routes to cover Jefferson County,” said Mr. Exford, adding the county-wide transportation system is scheduled to launch sometime in 2024.
For more information about the upcoming public input sessions or the proposed county-wide transportation system, contact Mr. Exford by phone at 315-755-8365 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT JEFFERSON COUNTY MOBILITY MANAGEMENT
Jefferson County is one of only two counties in New York State that does not have a public transit system. The focus of Jefferson County Mobility Management is “to develop and implement a county-wide system to get residents that have transportation as a barrier from the county into Watertown and Watertown into the county along with connecting to outside the county in St. Lawrence and Lewis Counties.
What a finalized county-wide system will look like remains to be seen. However, proposed corridors for the system ultimately would include routes from Gouverneur to Fort Drum to Watertown, Lewis County to Carthage to Watertown, the Alexandria Bay-Clayton area to Watertown, and Adams to Watertown. All routes would have a transfer hub to meet with Watertown Citi-Bus so residents can connect and be provided a seamless transfer.
The proposed county-wide system will not be operated by the county, but by a third-party transportation vendor, as is done in areas like Lewis County, where that county contracts with Birnie Bus Service Inc. for its services.
ABOUT THE VOLUNTEER TRANSPORTATION CENTER
The Volunteer Transportation Center, Inc. (VTC), established in 1991, drives thousands of miles each year assisting community members in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties and beyond. Over the last 30 years, this essential non-profit organization has provided rides to health care appointments, food sources and other critical needs destinations for residents.
In 2021, VTC volunteer drivers provided 26,711 charitable trips over 1,073,435 miles in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence Counties. Of those miles, 470,002 helped those in Jefferson County, 151,954 in Lewis County, and 451,479 in St. Lawrence County. That equated to approximately $477,679 in mileage reimbursement for our volunteers.
The staff, boards of directors and volunteer drivers look forward to a time when transportation to community activities and services is accessible to all North Country residents regardless of economic or specialized needs. But for now the mission drives on — striving to provide transportation to health, wellness and critical needs destinations utilizing volunteers and mobility management for anyone who has barriers to transportation.
For more information about how you can help the Volunteer Transportation Center, about its upcoming events, or to become a volunteer driver, contact the agency in Jefferson and Lewis Counties at 315-788-0422, in St. Lawrence County at 315-714-2034, in Oswego County at 315-644-6944, or Western New York at 585-250-5030. Volunteers drive their own cars, set their own hours and receive mileage reimbursement but, more importantly, make a difference in the community. To learn more, visit www.volunteertransportationcenter.org.