Controversy Continues Over Ending Poughkeepsie-Run Bus Service

May 4, 2017

Controversy continues over the termination of the City of Poughkeepsie’s bus service. Dutchess County plans to expand its service in the city with four new routes. The latest salvo was a city common council vote to refuse a state grant for the county’s expanded system. And Mayor Rob Rolison is blasting that move.

Poughkeepsie bus service is slated to end June 30, with Dutchess County adding four routes in the city set to begin July 1. Poughkeepsie Democratic Common Councilmember Chris Petsas explains why he voted to refuse the $315,000 state grant to expand county bus service.

“That grant, again, would have facilitated the elimination of the bus service,” says Petsas.

Here’s Republican Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison.

“It’s disappointing on so many levels because for seven months the city council has done essentially nothing on this issue except some of them have held rallies and gotten people worried and fired up about bus service is ending and they’re losing their buses,” Rolison says.

Petsas says the city should look elsewhere to save money and not deprive vulnerable residents of transportation they depend upon.

“I don’t think that’s good government. I don’t think that’s good leadership and I don’t think that’s the moral, right thing to do,” Petsas says. “It’s no different than Donald Trump wanting to cut Meals on Wheels, right? The cost savings is, yeah, it’ll save some money but you’re also going to impact millions of lives of these people that rely on Meals on Wheels to deliver meals to their homes.”

Residents have attended public meetings on the subject, with many voicing concern and opposing the termination of Poughkeepsie’s bus service. Rolison says he accepts the concerns that have been voiced and acknowledges that some residents will not have the service they need. He says the new county routes will provide service for the majority. And Rolison accuses some council members of stirring up debate unnecessarily.

“And it was just clear to me that this was nothing but a, ‘we’re not going to cooperate in any way to help the county with the transit system in the city’. And it’s really unfortunate,” Rolison says. “As I said, it’s like, is their major legislative accomplishment turning down state aid? It seems to me that’s what it is.”

Rolison says the council has had more than three years to study and fix the city’s transit system and has failed. Again, Petsas.

“When you go from covering 56 city streets, and that’s what our buses cover right now, down to 20, and that’s what the four routes will do, that is a tremendous impact on a lot of people’s lives,” says Petsas.

Petsas was in Albany Thursday to drop off a resolution approved by the common council in a 5-3 vote to request that the state comptroller audit the Transit Fund.

“We believe that it’s important to have an independent set of eyes come in to review the financials of our transit fund,” Petsas says.

He says he does not believe the city administration’s assessment of a suffering transit fund is on target. Here’s Rolison:

“Well, that’s political grandstanding at its best to, I’m going to hand deliver something to the state capitol, then probably take a picture of it and post it on Facebook,” says Rolison.

Rolison says, by law, the entire city budget is audited independently each year. A spokesman for the comptroller says his office has received and will review the request. Petsas says he believes opposition to the city’s bus service ending will continue.

“I think that you will find this winding up in court,” says Petsas. “I think that these are… I think a shutdown of a bus service is a civil rights violation on many different levels, and I think that, sadly, this will wind up in the courts.”

He says he does not intend to be part of bringing such a suit, but says community groups and residents are mobilizing to bring legal action. Meanwhile, Dutchess County Public Transit will host several public outreach meetings next week to provide an overview of the four new county bus routes.