Expanding transportation services for college students in St. Lawrence County over the past year has proved quite popular.

Last year, the St. Lawrence County Public Transit system took over SUNY Potsdam’s shuttle service. Connecting the campus with other bus routes, this program has grown to more than 1,700 riders a month.

St. Lawrence County Public Transit now wants to expand this idea to include SUNY Canton and Clarkson University in Potsdam. The service will be called the College Connector and will begin in August. Riders will be able to transfer to different college buses at the Walmart Supercenter in Potsdam.

“It will give people who don’t have transportation a chance to take classes on any of the four campuses,” Frank Doldo, St. Lawrence County’s mobility manager, said in a story published Monday by the Watertown Daily Times. “It gives them the opportunity to get jobs at the colleges and it can improve their quality of life because they can go to recreational and social events.”

Representatives of both SUNY Canton and Clarkson praised the idea.

SUNY Canton spokesman Gregory Kie said in the story that the program will enable Canton students to travel to Canton-Potsdam Hospital for internships or jobs. He added: “Expanded public transportation will also be beneficial to the continued economic growth of both Canton and Potsdam.”

“This is a great service for our students, especially those without cars,” Brian Grant, Clarkson’s vice president for enrollment and student advancement, said in the story. “It will help students get their necessities easily. It also benefits them in terms of access and convenience.”

St. Lawrence University operates its own transportation program, but officials there are discussing the possibility of joining the county’s service. These new college routes will be available to members of the public. The schools will be eligible for discounts from the county by doing so.

“The colleges agreed they want to make their routes public,” Mr. Doldo said in the story. “It’s exciting because it opens up opportunity for the public to get transportation to their campuses for education, employment, recreation, sporting events, cultural events and gives greater access to St. Lawrence County residents that have transportation as a barrier.”

While each college will use a different bus, they’ll all offer free Wi-Fi service.

“The college routes will run from August through May, providing service seven days a week. The existing public bus system does not run on the weekends so that’s a new service for the public,” according to the Times story. “Clarkson has been operating a private charter bus service that serves between 300 and 500 students a month. SUNY Canton runs its Roo shuttle service that provides about 1,500 rides a month. Both have agreed to contract with the county’s public transportation service.

“The county contracts the service out to The Arc Jefferson-St. Lawrence, formerly NYSARC,” the story reported. “The county owns the bus fleet. Instead of the smaller shuttle bus, SUNY Canton will switch to a larger, 28-passenger bus.”

This plan will deepen the connections that already exist between these schools and the wider community. We commend county and school authorities for enhancing this service and strongly encourage people to make use of it.

Expanding this service makes sense. County bus routes saw a 75 percent increase in ridership between 2017 and 2018. Public transportation is a benefit to the entire region, and residents shouldn’t take it for granted.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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