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Community Action decides to downsize its 'CATS' bus program due to low use and high costs

By Press Release

Press release:

For many years, Community Action of Orleans and Genesee has been a resource supporting reliable and affordable transportation services to community members in our two counties via the Community Action Transportation System, better known CATS.

But the current system of providing bus transportation has become exceedingly expensive for Community Action. Over recent years, many of our bus trips contain only one or two riders. Using buses to transport a single rider is extremely expensive and the costs have continued to rise with increases in insurance, bus maintenance, fuel and wages.

It is with a heavy heart that Community Action has made the decision to downsize the CATS Bus transportation system. With costs exceeding revenue, it is deemed necessary to protect our ability to provide the many unique and essential services we bring to our customers. This will be difficult and this process will take time.

“Fuel and bus maintenance is costly, while ridership is low due to COVID and new conveniences such as remote work, grocery delivery, and telehealth,” said Community Action Executive Director Renee Hungerford.

The CATS program has been providing to residents, bus transportation service for established routes and for “on-demand” rides year-round, five days per week.  Destinations included community health centers, doctor and hospital visits, treatment centers, clinics, dialysis, and retail store shopping.

The caring and courageous staff continued services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic despite a drastic reduction in riders along with the added effort of sanitizing buses between trips. 

Community Action services have been able to support clients who are elderly or disabled and who remain independent in their homes but do not own/drive a vehicle. 

CATS bus transportation services have evolved where experienced and professional staff have dedicated themselves not only to ensuring maintained vehicles but have also provided very caring door-to-door and door-through-door service for some of our clients.

Today however, our friends at Rochester Transportation Services (RTS) and others are helping to fulfill this need. 

Community Action will work with partners to do everything possible to ensure transportation needs are met by offering other transportation options to our Community Action clients. We will continue to provide busing for our Head Start program.

As we go through this process, we will research the possibility to evolve our community transportation support to vans and energy efficient vehicles that meet the special needs of valued customers.

RTS announces shift to Dial-a-Ride service except for select routes

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

Regional Transit Service (RTS) today announced that it will only operate Dial-A-Ride public transit service in Genesee and Wyoming counties starting Thursday, March 26. This shift is to help protect RTS employees and customers and help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

RTS Genesee:

  • Customers in Genesee County can schedule a ride 24 hours in advance by calling RTS Genesee at (585) 343-3079.
  • Dial-A-Ride service will be available from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
  • The Tops Tuesday shuttle will continue normal operation.
  • Genesee Community College (GCC) students still on campus will have access to Route 215.
  • The GCC Route 213 is canceled until further notice. This route provided express service to GCC from Batavia.

RTS Wyoming:

  • Customers in Wyoming County can schedule a ride 24 hours in advance by calling RTS Wyoming at (585) 786-6050.
  • Dial-A-Ride service will be available from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
  • The Route 223 commuter service will continue to operate at 5:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. as usual.

RTS encourages customers to follow the guidance of Governor Andrew Cuomo: “Individuals should limit use of public transportation to when absolutely necessary and should limit potential exposure by spacing out at least six feet from other riders.”

Please join us in embracing the Governor’s guidance and use RTS only for essential travel. This includes trips to work if they are employed by an “essential” business, as well as trips to the grocery store, pharmacy or doctor. Please stay home if you are sick.

Hawley announces $13.9 million in local transportation infrastructure upgrades

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) announced today that millions in transportation upgrades have been awarded to the 139th Assembly District. Funding will improve operating assistance, transit buses, facilities and services in Genesee, Orleans and Monroe counties.

This includes funds to replace three transit buses and one bus shelter in Genesee County, improve operating functionality in Monroe County and the purchase of a new bus facility in Orleans County.

“Our local public transportation system is crucial to maintaining a strong and bustling community for all walks of life,” Hawley said. “With all the difficulties of traffic, parking and expenses of commuting for oneself, public transportation is extremely important to many residents of Western New York.

"Thousands of people rely on our buses to travel to work, go shopping and travel around the district, and many school age and college students need reliable transportation to and from campus. I am pleased to announce that this funding will be injected into our local transportation system and look forward to a more seamless commute for our residents.”

RTS rolls out new bus routes with more service, more connections

By Howard B. Owens


Customers of RTS will find it easier to get from Le Roy to shopping in Batavia, or from Batavia to neighboring counties, or from Batavia to Genesee Community College now that the transportation company has devised a new plan to help people get around better; it's based on an efficiency study RTS conducted.

  • There are new connections between Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming counties on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays;
  • There are now 10 trips a day to and from Big Tree Glen, the new apartment development on West Main Street;
  • Trips to and from GCC have been bumped up from five to six;
  • There is one new trip to and from Le Roy, which is an afternoon route, and times have been changed for two other Le Roy trips (to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.).

The routes are also linked together more smoothly, so it's easier to change buses in a timely manner.

“Somebody coming in from Le Roy can go all the way to Tops, all the way to Walmart, all the way to Kmart," said Jamie Mott, regional manager for RTS for Genesee and Orleans. "With the current system, if you come in from Le Roy, you’re done at the City Centre and then you have to wait. Now it’s a little bit different. You can actually continue on."

The former dial-a-ride service in the city and the current countywide service have been combined to add flexibility to the program. Riders more than a quarter mile off the regular routes can make appointments for pick up and drop off at least 24-hours in advance of their planned trips.

All these changes came with the requirement from RTS management that service be expanded without increasing expense.

"We had to do redesigns based on what we were already budgeted for, so that was a big challenge -- to figure out how we could expand our services, especially when you have on-time performance that you have to maintain," Mott said.

Regional Transit Service aims to identify improvements and connections, holds info session Tuesday at County Bldg. #2

By Billie Owens

Press release:

To meet the evolving transit needs of customers in Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, and Wyoming counties, RTS has launched a Regional Service Efficiency Study.

The purpose of the study is to identify service improvements and connections across the seven counties, and a key component of that study involves input from customers in those areas. RTS invites customers to share their thoughts by participating in an online survey and attending public workshops in February and March.

The online survey can be accessed through March 4 by using the following URL:

In Genesee County, an information session will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at County Building #2, 3837 W. Main Street Road, Batavia.

More information about the study can be found at

For all other information, visit

About RTS

Regional Transit Service (RTS) is a regional transit authority established by New York State with more than 900 employees who proudly serve customers and business partners in Monroe, Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne and Wyoming counties. Recognized as one of the best-run transit systems in the nation, RTS provides safe, reliable and convenient public bus transportation to more than 18 million people each year. We carry out our mission by connecting our customers to jobs, school, healthcare, shopping and recreational activities every day. For more information, visit

GCEDC to consider assistance for rail company

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) will consider a project from Depew, Lancaster & Western Railroad at its May 7 board meeting.

Depew, Lancaster & Western Railroad is planning to purchase additional equipment to include one specialized forklift and two track vehicles for servicing truck and rail service at the transload warehouse facility in the City of Batavia. The projected capital investment is approximately $118,000. The company has applied to the GCEDC for a sales tax exemption of $9,512.

The GCEDC Board meeting will take place at 4 p.m. and is open to the public. Meetings are held at the Innovation Zone Conference Room at MedTech Centre -- 99 MedTech Drive, Batavia, on the first floor, across from Genesee Community College.

At My Stop - You Stop!

By Steve Ognibene

Starting today is National School Bus Safety Week from October 21-25, 2013 and this year’s motto is "At My Stop - You Stop!"    Motorist should be aware to always stop for a stopped school bus it is the law.  Everyone has to stop when a school bus displays their red lights even when they are on the other side of the road and even on divided highway.  Everyone must stop no matter where they are on the road.

At First Student, the bus company that transports our students here at the Batavia School District, comments that one of the most common driver complaint is that motorists violate the school bus stop law every day.  Motorists are required to use caution and slow down when flashing yellow lights are activated and stop for a stopped school bus that is displaying the flashing red lights.

Sometimes drivers are not fully paying close attention to their driving, they are too busy texting, talking on the phone or just are not paying attention and pass a stopped school bus.  This serious poor safety action could lead up to a $250 fine, traffic tickets and up to suspension of license for passing a stopped school bus with their reds on.  All motorists need to better understand the seriousness of this traffic law and pass the word to each other to make the roads safer for all our students. 

“Our main concern is safety” said Location Manager Tonya Thompson of First Student .  “We educate both  our drivers and our students to ensure that each stop is a safe stop for everyone, so please help us make the road safe for our students too by doing your part and stop for a stopped school bus”.

State considering $1.8 million roundabout for Route 20 at Suicide Corners

By Howard B. Owens

Suicide Corners has a reputation, and as the name implies, it's not a good one.

While accidents may not be frequent where East Road crosses Route 20, when they have occurred -- at least until a few years ago -- they've been deadly.

There were fatal accidents at the intersection in June 1998, April 1999 and June 2004. One was a triple fatal and another a double fatal.

After the 2004 accidents, Bethany residents gathered 2,633 signatures asking the NYS Department of Transportation to do something about the intersection.

Their thought -- regrade Route 20.

The state's response: No physical changes to the roadway were necessary. The DOT put up bigger and brighter signs.

There hasn't been a fatal accident at the intersection since, only fender-benders, according to Tom Douglas. He said accidents have been reduced by 36 percent.

Douglas, who with his wife, Debbie, raised six kids in a 200-year-old house (formerly an inn with a second-story dance floor) on property abutting Suicide Corners.  He and his son personally witnessed the 2004 accident, which claimed the life of an infant and two other people (inset photo from the memorial on a pole across East Road from the Douglas residence).

Now, seven years after the last fatal accident, DOT officials have apparently decided it's time to take more drastic measures to make the intersection safer.

The proposal: A $1.8 million traffic circle, a roundabout like the one on Oak Street in the City of Batavia.

If the project is approved, Tom and Debbie Douglas will lose their home. The state will seize their property through eminent domain (providing fair market value and relocation expenses).

About a quarter of the traffic circle will be on their current property, with the roadway through the area moving moved southward several dozens of feet.

Tom Douglas said not only will his family lose their home, a home with some local history, he doesn't believe the project serves any useful purpose.

"Statistically," he said, "It's not needed."

Lori Maher, public information officer for the DOT in the Genesee Region, said what the DOT is looking at is the entire history of the intersection, not just the past few years.

"That (no fatalities since 2004) doesn't mean that the problem is corrected and we should walk away from it, so we are pursuing a safety improvement program," Maher said.

But she said that doesn't mean the state will necessarily build a roundabout and that the Douglases will lose their home.

The proper corrective action is still under review and state engineers may yet determine that a roundabout is not the best solution (weighing, in fact, the serious decision of proceeding with eminent domain on the Douglas property).

The project, however, has been funded for construction to begin in the summer of 2013.

There will be public meetings and ample time for the public to provide feedback on the project, Maher said, but because fact-finding is not yet completed, no dates for those hearings have been set.

Douglas, town building inspector (Debbie is town clerk) and Bethany Town Supervisor Louis Gayton also question the wisdom of spending money on a roundabout when the Bethany Town Center Road bridge over Route 20 is in such drastic need of replacement or repair. Chunks of it regularly fall off onto Route 20.

"One of these days, somebody is going to get injured," Douglas said.

The main issue, Douglas said, isn't the traffic on Route 20. It's drivers on East Road, mostly northbound drivers, blowing through the intersection.

Douglas and others have suggested rumble strips on East Road, but both the state and the county highway department have rejected the idea as impractical.

"They think people will just drive around them," Douglas said. "But if they're driving around them, they're slowing down. It would still alert them to the intersection."

Gayton wonders if the roundabout will even improve safety.

"Trucks come through there at 60 to 65 mph," Gayton said. "Now they've got to slow down to 15 mph. I don't need to tell you what will happen."

Tim Hens, the county's highway superintendent, in an email sent Monday to county legislators obtained by Douglas, also questioned the DOT's decision.

This is not set in stone yet as it has to muster a public review process and final board adoption, but if adopted, we stand to lose funding for three bridge projects in the immediate TIP period covering 2011-14. This may only be the tip of the iceberg if new transportation reauthorization is not clear by the end of the year.

I did find it odd that they decided to keep the NEW Rt 20/East Rd (Suicide Corners) roundabout in the plan versus EXISTING bridges that are deteriorating. I know there has been loss of life at this corner, but not sure the roundabout is a popular solution with many local people.

Maher said, however, that the funding sources for bridges are different than the funding sources for intersection improvements. If an improvement -- roundabout or not -- for Suicide Corners isn't approved, then the $1.8 million slated for the project will just go to another intersection in the Genesee Region in need of improvement.

Sheriff Gary Maha, who attended a May 24 meeting with the DOT where the plan was first presented said he will leave the decision about how to improve safety to the experts, but he does know the state is increasingly using roundabouts throughout the state to improve safety on major roadways. He just visited two in Saratoga Springs.

"There's been a lot of serious accidents there over the years," Maha said. "I support anything that could improve safety in the area, certainly."

County's transportation infrastructure aging fast, funds tight for repair and replacement

By Howard B. Owens

Genesee County is facing a problem of aging roads and bridges and not enough money to fix them, according to Tim Hens, county highway superintendent.

Hens made a presentation Monday to the legislature's Public Service Committee and said the average rating of county-owned roadways is 5.32, and for the nine bridges with spans of 20 feet or greater, the average rating is 5.02.

A rating of five on a scale of 1-9 is considered "deficient."

Funding for roadways and bridges comes from three primary sources: federal grants, state grants and local taxes.

Typically, the state has provided $1.3 million per year, but it's not clear if those grants will continue at all or at the same level.

"If we don’t get that money from the state next year, we’re looking at either differing that amount of highway maintenance next year or coming up with funding ourselves," Hens told the committee.

There's also talk of cutting federal funds by as much as 30 percent, Hens said.

As for the bridges, many of them were built in the 1950s and 1960s are reaching the end of their expected life. Some of them are eligible for federal grants for repair and replacement, but those grants are spread out over several years.

And because of the formula used by the Fed to determine eligibility, some bridges aren't eligible for funding because they haven't uniformly fallen to a 5 rating.  

The bridge over the Tonawanda Creek at River Street is an example, Hens said. While parts of the bridge rate below a 5, other parts of the bridge rate well above 5. 

Hens said he's been trying to get a grant to replace the bridge for years. At some point, the county may just need to close it.

Bridges and culverts that are less than 20 feet in length are not eligible for federal grants, so the county must pick up the entire tab.

An example is a culvert bridge on Linden Road over the Little Tonawanda Creek. It's near the end of its life cycle but it would cost the county more than $3 million to replace it.

"Our choices are not replace the bridge and force residents in the hamlet to be separated forever and find alternative routes," Hens said, "or pay for it."

Other problem bridges are on Kilian Road in Pembroke and Griswold Road in Stafford.

With the Griswold Road bridge, school buses are no longer allowed to drive over it and snow plows won't go over it. It simply can no longer support that much weight. (The rusted beam picture above comes from the Griswold Road bridge.)

As for roadways, an asphalt road is expected to have a 50 35-year life span with resurfacing every eight to 10 years and preventative maintenance (crack sealing, for example) on a regular basis.

Currently, the county is behind schedule on preventative maintenance for more than 56 miles of roadway.

In all, 26 percent of the county's roadways are considered deficient.

Besides cuts in funding and many of these roads and bridges reaching the end of their useful life all at about the same time, the cost of materials, Hens said, are skyrocketing.

He recommended that the county develop a long-term needs analysis and then consider funding options, which may include bonds.

The committee was not asked to take any action on the report.

Photos provided by Tim Hens and were used in his report.

State and CSX at odds over high-speed rail line agreement

By Howard B. Owens

When New York reached an agreement with CSX for a high-speed rail line from Albany to Buffalo, it signed off on two provisions officials now seem to regret, according to the Buffalo News.

Rather than a rail line with trains reaching top speeds of 110 mph, the state's agreement only calls for speeds of 90 mph.

Also, the state agreed to a 30-foot gap between rail line along the CSX right-of-way.

The problem is, there are portions of the right-of-way that aren't even 30-feet wide, which means property will need to be bought (or seized through eminent domain) or overpasses will need to be reconstructed.

The resulting dispute between the state and CSX threatens to derail the entire upstate high-speed rail project — but to prevent that, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Friday assigned a top federal rail official to try to resolve the issue.

“I promised Congresswoman Slaughter that FRA Deputy Administrator Karen Rae will work with the state and do whatever it takes to make high-speed rail happen for New York,” LaHood said after the meeting.

Slaughter, meanwhile, said she was thrilled that Rae — who was the state’s top rail official before moving to Washington — would be devoted full time to resolving the disagreement.

The rail line will pass through Genesee County, with a demonstration project already funded for a line between Byron and Riga.

'Fast track to nowhere' coming to Genesee County

By Howard B. Owens

If you live in Byron and commute to Riga, you're in luck -- the trip is going to get much faster.

High-speed rail is coming to Genesee County, according to Congresswoman Louise Slaughter.

But it won't get you to Albany or New York City. It won't even get you to Rochester or Buffalo. But it will get you to Riga.

A more extensive high-speed-rail system would cost billions and President Obama didn't bless New York with that much money.

He earmarked just $150 million for a "demonstration project."

The tracks will lay beside a current rail line, but engineered so existing Amtrak trains can obtain a speed of 110 mph, compared to the current top speed of 79 mph.

Here's the D&C story.

UPDATE: WBTA's Geoff Redick interviewed Victoria Dillon (mp3) from Rep. Slaughter's office. Dillon reveals this stretch of track will not connect with anything. No train will run on it. It's just a third rail. Linking it into any other system, "would create extra crossing that we would just have to get rid of," Dillon said.  She calls it "an important first step."

Buffalo to Albany rail line getting Obama Administration attention

By Howard B. Owens

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is cited in the Buffalo News as saying the Obama Administration will give serious consideration to construction of a high-speed rail line connecting Buffalo and Albany.

The project could be part of an $8 billion stimulus bill set-aside to modernize passenger rail systems.

“This is a very bipartisan effort that includes a project that represents 60 percent of the state,” LaHood said after a meeting with the state’s upstate congressional delegation. “This part of the state is hurting, and obviously this would be an economic engine, and we obviously will take all of that into consideration.”


Several members of the upstate caucus attended the meeting, including two Republicans: Rep. Chris Lee, R-Clarence, and Rep. John McHugh, R-Watertown.

“We are getting nice bipartisan support here, and the secretary seems to be on board with it,” Lee said.

What Batavians need to be concerned about is whether Batavia is a stop along the route.

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