Improve Transportation Services

Expand services, optimize the riding experience, and increase awareness

February 1, 2024

Public transportation contributes to economic development, public health, and quality of life. As Chair of the Columbia County Public Transportation Subcommittee, I’m grateful to be working with great partners to improve this vital service. Ridership increased by 25% in 2023, and the Hudson-Greenport Shopping Shuttle had record annual ridership.

Expanded Routes

In the summer of 2018, we launched a Summer Youth Bus, making it easier for young people to participate in youth programs. We followed this improvement with a new after-school bus in Fall 2018.

In March 2023, we launched extended hours for the Shopping Shuttle. The new Columbia County Public Transportation service runs from 6:45 AM to 8:00 PM, Monday to Saturday, and Sundays from 11 AM to 3 PM.

In April 2024, we secured $200,000 in New York State funding for a new route between Hudson and Chatham. I’m working on planning and logistics to launch that route as soon as possible.

We should continue to explore expanding times on existing routes and adding new ones. According to a University of Utah Study, increasing frequency generally increases ridership more than adding new routes.

While we’re making improvements, we still have a long way to go to meet the needs of county residents. In a May 2023 Executive Order, the Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell stated the county faces significant shortages in transportation.

Improved Bus Fleet

When I first came into office, the county lacked quality, functional vehicles. For example, there were extremely cold days when the bus had no heat. In December 2018, we got two new buses. We added two additional buses in 2019. In 2022 and again in 2024, I helped secure funding from the New York State Department of Transportation for additional vehicles.

Improve Awareness

Many people are unaware of the services offered and how to use them. Given that we provide a service, we should make more substantial efforts to ensure people can access it.

Create Accurate Route Maps and Schedules

I discovered that many of the posted schedules were inaccurate and confusing. Updated versions of the Shopping Shuttle and Albany Route—with map and schedule— have been published and distributed. We still need to update the schedules for the additional routes.

published routes with corrections
Route schedules were riddled with inaccuracies and did not have a clear route.

Update County Website

I’ve helped make improvements to and supported the launch of a new County website. We corrected errors, added helpful information, and improved the language.

Improve Signage

We have added several bus stop signs in Hudson and Greenport. Bus stop signs are an important tool to attract riders and build the brand identity of a system. Bus stops should be visible along with route and schedule information. The previous signs had incorrect schedule information and listed a bus company that no longer runs the service.

Several street signs
New bus stop sign at 7th and Warren

Create Alert System

Riders can now get updates on snow emergencies and other changes in service by signing up for Columbia County’s NY Alert.

Real-Time Transit Data

A future where integrated real-time data from all transportation options enables a true mobility system that rivals private car use on convenience.

Eric Jaffe, Sidewalk Talks

Riders on the afternoon hours of the popular Shopping Shuttle can now get live updates on the bus location. Riders using the webpage or mobile app can get live updates on the bus location, as well as estimates for when the bus will arrive at a future bus stop. This has been proven to improve ridership and cut down on travel times.

Publicize Transportation Services

In addition to updating signs, flyers, and the website, I’d like to see other outreach efforts.

Secure Revenue

I’ve led efforts to improve the county’s state and federal grant application process, and the Federal and State governments provide significant financial support for Columbia County’s Public Transportation program. I’ve also secured private funds to improve services.

However, more federal and state funds should be allocated for public transportation. 75% of federal transportation funding goes to highways, according to Better Buses, Better Cities.

Lead Planning Process

I chaired the Columbia County Transportation Plan task force, which created the Columbia County Transportation Plan . The plan documents existing transportation services and provides a detailed demographics analysis. The information includes geographic data on households without a vehicle, people with a disability, seniors, and population density. It also documents points of interest, including large employers, government services, medical facilities, multiple-unit housing, educational institutions, and recreation sites. The plan also establishes a timeline and priority actions.

Transportation Key to Workforce Development

Parents face unique challenges accessing workforce programs and employment. Many have difficulty managing complex schedules or need supportive services such as child care to participate in training or work. They also need supports like transportation.

Family-Centered Approaches to Workforce Program Services

job outflow graphic
Most residents cross the Hudson border to get to work

According to the 2017 Housing Needs Assessment of Columbia County, most jobs in Hudson are filled by people who live outside of Hudson and most employed people who live in Hudson are employed outside of Hudson. The 2017 Columbia County Public Transportation Plan notes that while “major employment opportunities are spread throughout the county…The County of Columbia Public Transit System operational times are currently not condusent (sic) with many employment transportation needs…” The Columbia Greene Workforce 2017-2020 Local Plan notes “The lack of public transportation in our rural area is always an issue that limits not only access to the Career Center, but also access to other workforce preparation services, and job opportunities for many of our most in-need residents.”

The Housing Needs Assessment concludes, “Families who once rented homes and apartments near the urban centers of the county are thus forced to move further out into the country, where they face transportation issues back to major centers of employment and to schools. This migration out of Hudson is driving the numbers of homeless persons up in other areas of the county.” Public transportation needs to fill this important gap and help people access jobs as well as services.

People living below the poverty level are less likely to own or have access to a personal vehicle to get to work. Compared to other commuters, people below the poverty level are more likely to use lower-cost options such as carpooling, taking public transportation, or using other transportation modes, but such options are less available in rural areas. Some states and localities around the nation have instituted methods to optimize federal funding programs into coordinated and unified systems to serve their citizens, yet creating and administering such coordination is an arduous task. As a result, many rural transit services remain expensive to subsidize and unable to fill the transportation needs of rural businesses and citizens.

Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Report

Improve Service

Successful systems have the following qualities:

  • service goes where you to go
  • runs frequently
  • reasonably fast
  • reliable
  • convenient to walk or bicycle to stop
  • comfortable and safe
  • affordable

Columbia County offers public transportation from Hudson to shopping areas, Columbia Greene Community College, and Albany. In addition, Columbia County funds initiatives for senior, veteran, and medical transportation.

What do you think about County public transportation? Let me know how it should be improved.