By Supervisor George Hoehmann
As Clarkstown’s 2019 Tentative Budget was taking shape, we relied upon two guiding principles to lead our way. We wanted it to be Responsible and Realistic, which meant that we had to add a third “R” into the budget equation: Restructuring.
One of the key areas that we looked in to was Mini Trans. For 40 plus years, Mini Trans has been our bus system, serving commuters, seniors, the disabled and others who rely upon our bus system to get around Clarkstown and connect to other transportation options in our county and region.
One of our Councilmembers rode the buses for a week. He experienced very light ridership, which led him to ask many questions about the costs associated with the operation, including the potential liability the Town may be exposed to from potential accidents and litigation.
After I directed a more detailed review, we looked at the numbers and the facts were laid bare. Mini Trans bus service was never supposed to necessarily make money for the Town—none of our services are—but Mini Trans has become very expensive for the amount of riders it serves. In 2018, the Town will spend nearly $1.5 million dollars to provide about less than 400 rides per day across five separate bus lines. In a town of 87,000 people, it is quite an expensive service, which is heavily subsidized by the many who do not utilize it.
Initially, there was a lot of chatter about how the Town was going to eliminate the service entirely. That served as a spark for us to challenge ourselves to get creative, find savings and ensure that we can maintain the service.
After a thorough review I am confident that we have struck the right balance and solved a problem.
We unveiled a plan to save Mini Trans this week at a Town Board Workshop. Here are the highlights of the plan:
● It will keep our existing routes intact. Route A will run as it does now, though Routes B&E, C&D will be serviced by one bus in alternating fashion throughout the day
● It will save approximately $392,965 in next year’s budget
● No full time drivers will be laid off. Two currently vacant positions will be eliminated through attrition
● Saturday service, which was at one point contemplated for elimination, will remain intact
● Since we are scaling back the frequency of service on four of the five lines, we will not be asking for an increase in fares
● The Town will aggressively pursue advertising opportunities to generate increased revenue
After this plan was revealed, the Town Board listened to nearly 30 out of the 140 members of the public who attended the meeting. They expressed what Mini Trans meant to them and shared a number of interesting ideas and insights. We will continue to explore the future of Mini Trans in the coming year, such as conducting a comprehensive study, but I am confident that we arrived at a plan that will balance the transportation needs of our community with everyone’s desire to deliver services in as cost effective and efficient a manner as possible.