By Alberto Gilman
Newburgh elected officials, members of the Newburgh Transportation Advisory Committee and additional volunteers joined together on Saturday, January 28 to share a bus ride with commuters and passengers to continue the promotion of a pilot program of free bus rides with no fares for the community.
The pilot program received $67,500 in funding through the office of Senator James Skoufis which will cover 30,000 rides from the launch of the program on December 15, 2022 till March 31, 2023. The purpose of this program was to increase ridership in the city. In addition, the program also includes paratransit services for those riders who may require it while traveling.
Orange County Legislator Kevindaryán Luján was the first to arrive at 2 Alices Coffee Lounge on Broadway on Saturday morning, awaiting the additional riders. “We are so happy to see the enthusiasm that we’ve received from the community, the support of Senator Skoufis in terms of funding. This couldn’t have been accomplished without the support of the county executive, city officials and just all the city staff,” said Luján. “It [the bus system] has a massive impact on so many people’s lives, connecting them to services, connecting them to employment, connecting them to places of interest. This program does not succeed unless people know about it.”
Councilman Anthony Grice also reflected on the bus ride pilot program and its importance to the city residents and all those who rely on the bus system. “ I revitalized the Transportation Advisory Committee because I know the importance of being able to get to work, shopping and leisure activities in a safe, affordable and efficient way,” said Grice. “Offering rides at no cost helps employees, shoppers, struggling families, teenagers, young adults and seniors. It is my hope that this pilot program continues. I also look forward to new bus shelters and expanded routes and times.”
“I really hope that this continues to prove to be a success with numbers. Because then we can really work and really push our Senator [Rob]Rolison and Assemblyman [Jonathan] Jacobson to really, fight for these funds to become more permanent for our transportation here,” said Orange Legislator Genesis Ramos. “Today is definitely a very important step that speaks to how we engage with community. There is a digital divide in our community and so it is important that we find different ways to be able to message to our community and to be able to bring the awareness around this resource to our community.”
“I think that this program, this pilot, is a wonderful thing for the city. Again, majority of the residents in the City of Newburgh have to rely on some type of transportation other than their own. And so this was a big win for the community. I remember posting about it and letting people know, and immediately people’s faces were like, “Oh, wow, the bus is free”, like that happened in our community,” said Councilwoman Giselle Martinez. “I think that this is just the first step in improving the overall transportation in our city.”
Also joining the riders group were Marianne Marichal of the Transportation Advisory Committee, Councilwoman Ramona Monteverde, City Council At-Large Candidate Bryan Luna and Councilman Bob Sklarz who carried around flyers in both English and Spanish to distribute to the riders as they went along their route for the morning.
According to Luján, conversations with federal, county and state partners and data collection have been ongoing in hopes of additional support after the conclusion of the program. These conversations have also occurred with recent elected officials such Senator Rob Rolison and Congressman Pat Ryan. Other areas that are being worked on in relation to transportation are the bus shelters, the inclusion of more stops in the area and availability of the bus service on Sundays.