Fate of Tioga’s First Transit bus contract to be decided at Special Legislative meeting on Thursday

The Tioga County Legislature is holding a special meeting on Thursday, Sept.18 at 10 a.m. in the Edward D. Hubbard Auditorium of the Tioga County Office Building at 56 Main St., Owego, N.Y. The meeting will be to vote on a resolution to terminate the current contract with First Transit, who serves as the sole provider of public bus transportation in Tioga County, N.Y.

The debate over public funded transportation began last year when New York State cut funding for public transportation at the last minute during the fall months.

The question at that time among, common at public meetings, was, “Why should people who don’t ever ride the buses which travel the rural roads of Tioga County have to subsidize those that do ride Tioga Transport?”

These sorts of questions arose during Legislative meetings that followed the announcement that the funding would be cut. Problematic to the debate, was that a contract had already been negotiated assuming continuing state aid for the buses, with First Transit, Inc. awarded a five-year contract worth $7.85 million during the Dec. 10, 2013 regular meeting of the Tioga County Legislature. The contract specified that First Transit would provide public transportation and non-emergency Medicaid transportation services through 2018.

If the contract had not been approved, public transportation would have ceased in Tioga County at the end of the year, Legislator Loretta Sullivan said during a December 2013 Finance and Legal meeting in which the transportation issues were discussed.

Several fixes to the problem were discussed, with the bottom line falling upon taxpayers if public transportation were to continue in Tioga County, N.Y. Options, at that time, included a restructuring of routes, or even an elimination of some of them.

It costs an average of $55 an hour to operate one of the county’s buses, which frequently run with far less than half the seats filled, according to Tioga County Legislator Mike Roberts, who was involved in these talks at that time. That meant a public subsidy for the service would be needed to continue service, if Albany is not footing the bill anymore.

With the majority of First Transit’s $1,477,780 budget for 2014 – over $1 million – previously coming from aid from Albany, that left a sizable deficit to be filled or public transportation drastically cut. The Legislators concluded, at the time of earlier meetings, that the contract with First Transit would have to be altered or cancelled.

On Thursday, Sept.18 at 10 a.m., the Legislature in Tioga County will vote on a resolution to cancel the contract with Tioga Transit in its entirety.

According to the Tioga County Legislative office, a vote of five or more of the legislators would resolve the vote for its cancellation.

To learn more about the services provided by Tioga Transit under the Tioga County contract, as well as its routes, visit http://www.tiogacountyny.com/agencies/public-transit.html.


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