Opposition Over City Bus Consolidation Grows
The City of Poughkeepsie's Transportation Strategy Committee strongly opposes the proposed merger of the city's bus system and is urging the city council to consider all the facts before the final vote.
According to a statement released this week by the Transportation Strategy Committee (TSC) Mayor Rob Rolison and County Administrators decision to merge the City and County bus systems is premature and is based on false and inaccurate data. The TSC says the released statement is intended to advise the City Council of the issues they feel must be resolved before voting in favor of the merger.
"The County and the Mayor have stated the benefits of the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding), but those statements are not based on any required Title VI data, because that work has not been done, and that data has not been generated. It is not yet possible, under Title VI, to accurately state that the combined system will be better, cheaper and save the City taxpayers money. "
According to the TSC a Title VI is a "detailed data analyses of any disproportionate impact of the proposed changes, on protected classes of riders and service areas—low income, minority, Limited English Proficiency, disabled." This analyses is required before any actions are to be taken but according to the TSC the Title VI has not been completed and has not been presented to the Common Council or the public for review.
"In the opinion of the TSC, these premature impermissible Title VI actions include defunding the City bus system, veto-ing the Common Council’s attempts to preserve the City bus system, and presenting the Memorandum of Understanding to City and County elected officials without the requisite Title VI data."
The TSC also points out that the Title VI is used to assess financial liabilities against the city and its bus system. In the statement the TSC says at this point in time there are dozens of viable and potentially expensive claims against the city and county. These are just a few of the reasons the TSC is making it clear they are firmly against the merger and are encouraging the council to vote no.
City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro have both been advocates for the merger. Rolison has stated that in the current fiscal state taxpayers cant continue to subsidize the transit system when better options are available. That better option, the combined service with the county that is being opposed. Officials are concerned that with the current opposition the plan could be derailed, leaving citizens stranded.
The merger is reliant on a council vote which according to the Mayor, if not approved could mean losing $1.1 million dollars in state assistance and no bus service. In a recent post on Facebook Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro encouraged the council to act and to act fast so that residents are not negatively impacted. The 2017 budget for the City of Poughkeepsie only allows for funding for the bus services for the first six months of the year. After that if the merger is not approved, riders will be left without any service at all.
The next meeting of the common council is scheduled for this evening (Tuesday, February 21st) at 6:30pm at the Municipal Building, 62 Civic Center Plaza. I reached out to County Executive Marc Molinaro about the meeting and he believes it has been postponed however he noted his staff will be on hand for a presentation.