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Hinchey and Barrett work together on shuttle funding



HUDSON–A gathering of elected officials from around the county and region convened at the Promenade Hill park on Friday, May 17 for an announcement of a state grant for the improvement of public transportation in Columbia County.

At the podium, County Chamber of Commerce President Bill Gerlach introduced New York State Senator Michelle Hinchey (D-41st) and Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106th) who gave the news that $200,000 had been secured to fund a shuttle bus that will run between Hudson and Chatham.

Senator Michelle Hinchey and Assemblymember Didi Barrett (at the podium) in Hudson on Friday to announce funding for public transportation. Photo by David Lee

“When the Senate and the Assembly work together on these kinds of things we get it done,” Assemblymember Barrett said. They both stressed that this was just a first step in the work of getting public transportation into the county.
“From here I hope we will get to New Lebanon. We’ll work our way around the county and figure out all the different places that make sense,” said the assemblymember.

Also on hand for the announcement were Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson, Chatham Village Mayor John Howe, Chatham Town Supervisor Donal Collins, and Supervisor Michael Chameides (3rd Ward, Hudson), who is the Public Transportation Chairman for the Columbia County Board of Supervisors. Among those attending in support were fellow transportation committee members Rick Scalera and Ron Knott, county DSS Commissioner Robert Gibson, Claire Parde who is director of the Columbia County Community Healthcare Consortium, Supervisor Abdus Miah and Columbia Economic Development Corp President Michael Tucker.

Mayor Howe pointed out that there are three senior citizen complexes in the Village of Chatham alone.
“Being able to come back down into the county seat and the services that are offered here is a huge boost for these folks that right now can’t take advantage of these services,” he said.

“Not only that,” he added, “but there is the flip side that people come to Chatham and stop at the brewery where they were just voted best burger (New York Beef Council) and we have the Shaker Museum we hope is going to come online soon, and PS21, the Mac-Haydn Theatre and the Chatham Fair.”

County Transport Committee Chair Chamiedes noted that ridership on the currently operating Greenport shuttle bus had its largest ridership last year. Citing a study from last year he said that public transportation provides about 40,000 rides a year with an additional 40,000 provided by about a dozen point-to-point agencies.

“Pretty much across the board those agencies reported that they don’t have enough capacity to meet the need,” he said, “and I want to stress that transportation services really benefit everybody. Our economy grows and is driven when people can get to work, when people can go shopping. We save money and reduce cost when people can easily got to medical appointments or get to government services, and ultimately the quality of life for out county is improved when people can go and visit their loved ones or even just go to another town and take a stroll.”

Senator Hinchey concluded the event saying that this is a chance to put a stake in the ground.
Emphasizing the cross-county regional impact, she said, “My pipe dream is a Hudson Valley Transportation Authority.”

“We deserve public transportation,” she said, “and we can get the state to provide some funding for it — it cannot be just on the backs of our counties. Now once we have some of these pilot programs in place, that also gives us the ability to put the structure that we need for the broader vision of a true transportation authority connecting all of our towns and villages and cities across the Hudson Valley.

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