ORANGE COUNTY – One of the most frequent issues my Orange County constituents raise with- me is also one of the most solvable: the challenge people face due to the lack of viable public transportation options.
In February, county residents at a transportation forum, held at SUNY Orange in Newburgh, voiced their concerns about a bus system that isn’t meeting their needs. Some talked about the lack of basic necessities such as bus stops that are protected from the elements, the need for more handicap accessible options, updated, easy-to-read schedules, intercity loop buses similar to the ones available in Beacon, expanded routes, and longer hours of operation. Acting County Executive Harry Porr recently proposed examining the feasibility of light rail connecting the Beacon Metro-North station to both downtown Newburgh and Stewart International Airport. This would dramatically reduce costs to commuters and tourists and provide a direct connection from Grand Central Station to Stewart. It would not only boost international travel into Stewart, but also greatly assist a struggling community – my own City of Newburgh.
I fully support Mr. Porr in urging the state to make this proposal a reality, a project he has advocated for since at least 2001. Meanwhile, however, there is something we can do right now that would greatly improve transportation and boost usage of public transit: We can make bus transportation free to the public, and the benefits would far outweigh the nominal costs to the county.
Nationwide, communities that have expanded routes and invested in free public transportation have seen dramatic increases in ridership, while enabling people to access both jobs and services, boosting tourism and commerce, and connecting communities.An increase in public transportation also greatly decreases our carbon footprint. More importantly, think of the single mother who is struggling to pay her rising rent and energy costs, trying to pay off her student loans, paying for child care and taking three taxis to get to one of her three jobs (none of which offer health insurance), spending $10-$30 a day for transportation just because the buses are not consistent or don’t come around at the times she needs them.
The people have spoken. We can and must do better. Let’s begin by expanding hours and routes, and making transportation free for our community.
To contact Kevindaryán Lujan, Orange County Legislator, District 4, call (845)-282-6081 or email at Kevindaryan.email@example.com