Saturday, October 5, 2013

Thoughts on the Broome County Transit System

Greater Binghamton Transportation Center
photo courtesy of
"You can't understand a city with using its public transportation system." - Erol Ozan

I just completed my first week as a Broome County transit user and I find it necessary to relate to you a bit about my experience.

First of all, contrary to popular belief, the users of the public transit system are an eclectic mix.  I had the pleasure of sharing my daily commute with young mothers, retirees, Binghamton University professors, retail and factory workers, and students ranging from High School to College age.  Not once did I encounter anything other than a sense of being welcomed into what seems to have become a family like atmosphere.  Everyone was greeted with a "Hello. How are you today?" as they entered the bus.  It was refreshing to see so many young people giving up their seats to the young mothers with small children in tow or to the senior citizens without having to be asked.

Every bus driver greeted the passengers with a smile and a friendly hello; although you could tell that the long hours behind the wheel were taking their toll.  

However, not matter how wonderful the drivers are, the overall service itself is in need of improvement.  The schedules and routes need to seriously be looked at and revamped to meet the needs of the community.  For a majority of the riders, including myself, downtown Binghamton was not our final destination.  The Greater Binghamton Transportation Center is merely a transfer station for most. The schedules, while taking into consideration, "normal" work shifts; do not provide much flexibility for the users during their "off" hours.  

Although the last bus out of the transportation center is at 9:55 during the week (if you are lucky enough to live within the City of Binghamton limits; the others in Broome County are out of luck); on the weekends the last bus outbound is 6 pm (again for City of Binghamton - North, South and East sides only).  For those who either work in the retail or services industries on the weekends or just want to attend some of the great events around town; they are forced to pay upwards of $22 for a cab.  This is on top of the $70 they are paying for a 31 day bus pass which in reality cannot be used for the full 31 days due to scheduling and route restrictions.

Rumors were running rampant among both the passengers and the transit employees regarding the County's attempt to privatize the system.  I am not going to repeat them; as they are only rumors.  However, the county needs to seriously take into consideration the needs of its residents when making a decision on something as important as public transportation.  It needs to work with the end users and the employees in the field to determine their transportation needs.

Public transportation must serve both social and economic ends.  "High-ridership transit is a tool for healing and sustaining cities, and its capacity to bring large numbers of people to central locations empowers not just the downtown economy but also the civic square, the arts, the tourism industry, the commons, all the distinctively urban experiences that happen only when people can come together, without their cars." Privatized Transit and (or vs.) the Public Good.  

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