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St. Lawrence County public bus system grows ridership

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Ridership on the public bus system operated by St. Lawrence NYSARC continues to rise.

“It’s up quite a bit. Everybody’s pretty excited about it,” said Jerry M. Filiatrault, NYSARC director of operations. “We’re up close to 20 percent this year. We’re averaging 120 a day. For 2013, we’ll probably hit 45,000 riders.”

The Connecting Communities transit program started off in May 2012, with fewer than 300 people, but that number jumped to more than 2,000 five months later.

The public bus program run by NYSARC took the place of a St. Lawrence County-subsidized system operated through an agreement with the state Department of Transportation and Roethel Coach Lines, Ogdensburg. The Board of Legislators ended the arrangement because of the cost of providing the program, which had low rider numbers. NYSARC’S system has been successful because it relies on more than 30 routes already in place for its clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The NYSARC system goes to Star Lake once a week.

“That’s working very well,” Mr. Filiatrault said. “We had 14 riders. For St. Lawrence County, that’s pretty good.”

The fare remains $2 per trip. Staff numbers remain the same as when the program started, although more may be added in the future.

“We’re breaking even,” Mr. Filiatrault said. “That’s what we’re supposed to do.”

The service is popular among Amish, who do not drive cars, but the majority of riders are others, including students, senior citizens and workers.

“I’d say it’s about 40 percent Amish,” Mr. Filiatrault said.

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