Council eyes new plan for CitiBus position

WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES

WATERTOWN — City Council members are ready to get on board with a new plan for the CitiBus public transit system.

For years, a proposed CitiBus traffic coordinator position has gone unfilled because no one wanted the job.

But city officials are looking at hiring the work out to someone to manage the day-to-day operations for the bus system.

City Council members on Monday night heard a presentation about how St. Lawrence County’s public transit system is run by a mobility manager.

Frank Doldo, who holds the position in St. Lawrence County, explained how he’s found funding for his job and the system’s entire budget since he came on board in 2017.

The city can do the same, he told council members on Monday. The state Department of Transportation is encouraging counties to go to the mobility manager system, he said.

“There’s enough money out there for Watertown,” Mr. Doldo said, adding St. Lawrence won’t have to worry about funding for the next three years.

He is not a county employee; he’s basically an outside contractor.

In St. Lawrence County, he’s connecting communities and able to get riders to their jobs and to continue their education at the county’s four area colleges and universities.

And ridership continues to increase every year, Mr. Doldo said.

City Manager Rick Finn told council members that it would be quicker to complete expansion plans to Fort Drum, other parts of Jefferson County and into other counties if they hired a mobility manager

“It would be a regional approach,” he said, adding that county officials would have to move forward with the system at some point.

The city would need to go through a Request for Proposal process to find a mobility manager. It could be a person or a firm, Mr. Finn said.

“There’d be no cost to the city,” he said.

Council members on Monday informally agreed to move forward with the plan.

CitiBus now relies on state and federal funding.

In the past, city officials have been unable find a transit coordinator, citing the size of the CitiBus operations and the amount of its salary.

During the 2018-19 fiscal year, 135,296 riders took CitiBuses, an increase of 1,433 from the year before. Fares are $1.50 for adults and 50 cents for children under age 12. Transfers are free. Riders can also get a $40 pass for unlimited use.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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