PLATTSBURGH - The Clinton County Economic Collaborative - a board created by The Development Corporation consisting of local development agencies and business owners - is conducting a survey to better understand and improve the public transportation system in Clinton County.
Katharine J. Mulligan, director of marketing and business development for The Development Corporation, said a survey was recently completed in which more than 100 local employers were asked of their perceptions of the Clinton County Public Transit system and how, if at all, it relates to their employees.
"We developed the survey to see if transportation for employees in getting to work every day is a concern for employers, and, if it is, if they have anything in place such as car pooling or other initiatives to help the problem," said Mulligan, who added the results of the survey are still being tabulated. "It's really to assess whether or not this is an issue for the businesses and to see if we can possibly help improve any of the public transportation activities right now."
The idea for the survey came when the economic collaborative was formed earlier this year, said Mulligan. The Development Corporation board of directors wanted to establish a task force to work on various issues across the county in relation to job development and employee recruitment and retention. One of the first issues discussed was public transportation.
"This was at the time when gas was $4.30," said Mulligan. "Since many business owners are on the collaborative, we listened to their concerns and to them, there was a concern their employees, some living 30 miles away, were having a hard time making that financial commitment to get to work."
The collaborative then began working with Clinton County Planning Department planning technician Maggie Barie, who oversees operations for the transportation system. Through that association, the collaborative then developed the survey, which will be followed up by a second survey for the businesses' employees.
"We're going to be tabulating the results and formatting a second survey that will go directly to the employees beginning early next year," explained Mulligan.
There is further potential for the collaborative to conduct a broader-based survey of the general public and its perceptions of the transportation system, said Mulligan. However, the county already conducts routine surveys of its drivers and passengers.
"The responses we receive help us determine how we can provide the best service," said Barie.
The planning technician added the results of the surveys conducted by the collaborative, once received, will also be taken into consideration to improve service where possible.
"We'll use them to look at our routes and see if we could change them a bit here or there," said Barie. "We'd like to accommodate everyone in the county as much as possible and if that means some slight extensions of routes or deviations, then we'll try to do that."
Most recently, the planning department received a petition from passengers requesting a stop be created at the new location of the Aldi supermarket on Cornelia Street. Other requests have been received to create a stop at Plattsburgh International Airport.
According to Barie, the transportation system has seen an increase in ridership of approximately 10-15 percent over last year. Annual figures hover between 120,000-130,000 passengers, she said, with the year expected to reach 140,000.
'We might even go beyond that," said Barie.
Passengers like Richard Barber aren't surprised. Barber takes the Grand Isle Commuter from Cumberland Head into the city during the week, where he's able to take other routes to additional destinations. He began taking the shuttle in fall 2007, while attending Clinton Community College and has been using the service ever since.
"I take it all over. I catch the bus coming into town in the morning and catch another one if I have to go to the mall or wherever," said Barber. "It takes less than 20 minutes to get from Cumberland Head to Plattsburgh."
When in the city, Barber also uses the transportation system to get to OneWorkSource on U.S. Oval, where he's able to utilize the organization's job seeking services. The affordability of taking the bus is important, said Barber, as he is between jobs and doesn't have his own vehicle. Even if he did, he said he'd prefer to use public transportation.
"It's cheaper. You don't have to pay for gas, registration, insurance," he said. "With the bus, you pay a dollar and you ride. It's nice."
While Barber said he doesn't see a need for improvements to the transportation system, Mulligan said it's important the question is asked.
"Maybe there isn't a need. Perhaps employers don't have problems with their employees [getting to and from work]," said Mulligan. "But, if there is, we want to make sure we can provide them with the resources so they can move forward and really extend the services to their employees."
"Either way, I think the results we do gather from the survey will be very beneficial," she added.