Expanding public transportation in north country

Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 4:02 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - There are plans to expand public transportation from the city of Watertown to Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

Watertown resident Anne Walton uses the bus to do errands and says the lack of a bus route beyond the city limits can make it hard for her and others to get around.

“There’s a lot of elderly people that have doctors appointments that are out of town and is hard to get transportation and it would benefit a lot to them,” she said.

John Exford, who serves as Jefferson County’s mobility manager, says a countywide transportation system is being proposed.

“To be able to go to food sources, to be able to come into meetings and appointments, and employers are excited that they can recruit people that live away now,” he said.

The routes would include stops in Gouverneur, Fort Drum, Carthage, Alexandria Bay, Clayton, and Adams. The routes would go into Lewis County - all connecting to Watertown’s CitiBus transfer hub.

As for funding, Exford says 80% will be federal, 10% will be from the state and the remaining 10% would be local- most likely a third party, not the county.

Thousand Islands Tourism Director Corey Fram believes this will help with a worker shortage.

“Is not just connecting workers to potential jobs, but that is a big part of it when we have operators who are having to close their doors early with customers standing out on the sidewalk because they can’t find workers due to a transportation challenge. That’s an easy fix if we had a countywide transportation system,” he said.

Exford says the Fort Drum community is also a top priority.

“They need transportation; not everybody has a vehicle, especially on Fort Drum, so we’re definitely looking at that as a priority,” he said.

Lewis County transportation system officials see this as a way for their system to make route transfers into Jefferson County.

“Where we can drop those Lewis County passengers into the Jefferson County system to make their appointments and destinations. To do, like, that last miles of travel definitely helps free us up to work on our five fixed routes,” said Samantha Brown, Lewis County Development Program specialist.

Public information sessions where people can share their input will be held in the first weeks of September all throughout Jefferson County.