Watertown councilman says city should explore CitiBus run by transit authority

Travelers ready to embark a CitiBus at the downtown Terminal.

Travelers ready to embark a CitiBus at the downtown Terminal. Watertown Daily Times file photo.

City Councilman Mark C. Walczyk wants the city to look into whether the CitiBus public bus system should be run by a transportation authority. [Read more…]

CitiBus fares may increase by 50 cents

Travelers ready to embark a CitiBus at the downtown terminal. Photo by Norm Johnston, Watertown Daily Times.

Travelers ready to embark a CitiBus at the downtown terminal. Photo by Norm Johnston, Watertown Daily Times.

WATERTOWN — CitiBus riders may need to fish another 50 cents from their pockets each time they take a ride. [Read more…]

Retailers, riders like new CitiBus holiday service

Rebecca A. Sholett welcomed the idea of hopping onto a CitiBus on a Sunday to get to her job at the Salmon Run Mall.

The CitiBus system, kicked off the new bus service Sunday, aimed at helping people like Mrs. Sholett, who don’t have transportation, to get to their jobs or want to shop at the mall and other stores in the city.

The pilot program also will be offered on the city’s other bus routes along Washington Street, the north side loop and Coffeen Street on the next two Sundays before Christmas.

On Thursday morning, Mrs. Sholett was heading to her job at Sears when the bus driver asked her and other riders whether they needed a copy of the new Sunday schedule. Like many of the 30 people on the bus, it was the first time Mrs. Sholett had heard about the Sunday buses before Christmas.

“Everybody raised their hands, so I think that’s pretty cool,” she said.

Last Monday night, the Watertown City Council informally agreed to add Sunday runs to the city-operated bus system during this Christmas season. It’s the first time CitiBus is offering Sunday service in its 39-year history, city officials said.

Getting the message out to the people who use the bus system is crucial, council members said. Over the next several days, CitiBus drivers will hand out hundreds of fliers to riders. The city also distributed a public notice and completed a media blitz about the program.

Many retailers, like riders, are welcoming the new program, noting that it should help employees without cars. They also hope it will attract shoppers who might not necessarily be able to get to their stores on those Sundays.

It will come in handy for about 15 employees at the Christmas Tree Shop in the mall who rely on CitiBuses for work, said Liane R. Lee, the store’s assistant human resources manager. It also will be convenient for shoppers, she said.

“I think it’s especially going to help the elderly,” Mrs. Lee said.

Scott C. Raines, store manager at Sears, was not aware of the pilot program, so he’s not sure what kind of impact it will have on bringing customers to the store. But he’s optimistic it will help boost sales.

“I think it’ll benefit us,” he said.

Charlotte A. Lee, owner of the Cedar Mountain Mercantile gift shop in the mall, has noticed business has been slower than previous holiday seasons at the mall, so she said the holiday bus service “is a great idea.”

“It sure can’t hurt,” she said, adding that she wishes that CitiBus would offer Sunday buses throughout the year.

CitiBus rider and Mill Street resident Susan Beaman came up with the idea and sent City Manager Sharon A. Addison a letter three weeks ago, asking that the city consider whether CitiBus service could be added on Sundays during December.

Once it’s over, the city will assess the pilot program to see how many riders took advantage of the service and whether it should be offered again. Council members have expressed concern it may lose money.

It will cost $1,268.90 each Sunday for the salaries of the four bus drivers and for expenses such as fuel, city officials said. They could not provide any estimates on the amount of revenue that will be generated by the holiday service.

During the 2012-13 fiscal year, 154,293 people used CitiBus, with $152,601 in revenues generated by passenger sales. It has five buses. With a budget of $961,000 this fiscal year, CitiBus also employs five bus drivers, a head bus driver and a transit supervisor.

 

 

By Craig Fox, Times Staff Writer

CitiBus adds Sunday service during holidays

Without CitiBus service available when she needed it, Susan Beaman recently found herself having no way to get to church and Christmas shopping on Sundays during the holiday season.

But, at her request, the Watertown City Council informally agreed Monday night to add Sunday runs to the city-operated bus system during this Christmas season. Three weeks ago, Ms. Beaman sent City Manager Sharon A. Addison a letter asking that the city consider whether CitiBus service could be offered on Sundays during December.

Ms. Beaman was “amazed” that council members acted on her request so quickly.

“I can’t believe it,” she said Tuesday. “I didn’t think it would be done for this Christmas. That’s great.”

For the past three weeks, Ms. Beaman has relied mainly on CitiBus to get her back and forth to her job as an administrative assistant at the First Presbyterian Church on Washington Street after she lost access to the car she had shared with her daughter when her daughter moved out of the area.

It will be the first time CitiBus will offer Sunday service in its 39-year history, said Peter E. Monaco, assistant public works superintendent.

On Tuesday, city officials were still working out some of the details on how the pilot program will be rolled out. Getting the message out to the people who use the bus system will be crucial, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said.

Starting this week and ending Dec. 21, the buses will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the three Sundays before Christmas. Buses will run on the same three routes and times as is done on Mondays through Saturdays, Ms. Addison said Tuesday.

As required by federal law, the city’s Paratransit service for handicapped riders also must be offered during those times, she said.

A news release outlining the new Sunday bus service will be distributed soon, she said. Much of the planning for the holiday runs was completed before the City Council agreed on the pilot project Monday night.

It will cost $1,268.90 each Sunday for the salaries of the four bus drivers and to pay for expenses such as fuel, Ms. Addison said. She could not provide any estimates on the amount of revenue that will be generated by the holiday service.

The news of the Sunday holiday bus routes comes at a time when the system is undergoing some major changes, including how it will be funded.

As of Oct. 31, CitiBus was placed under the auspices of the Federal Transportation Administration, instead of the state Department of Transportation. That change was prompted by the city becoming a Metropolitan Planning Organization, as designated by population statistics under the U.S. Census Bureau.

Riders will not notice any differences in the bus system, although it will mean the city will have more direct control in how it is run, Public Works Superintendent Eugene P. Hayes said.

In the past, the city received $145,000 annually from the state DOT and additional funding to replace aging buses. The city now will receive $960,000 annually, but that amount also will have to go toward the purchase of new buses.

With each of the city’s five buses having accumulated about 250,000 miles, the city will have to replace the fleet within the next few years, Mr. Hayes said. Each bus costs about $350,000.

“It’ll really be better down the road, but the timing is troubling,” he said.

In the future, Mr. Hayes would like to see the bus system expand from its Salmon Run Mall boundary to other retailers farther west on outer Arsenal Street and to two new apartment complexes in the town.

During the 2012-13 fiscal year, 154,293 people used CitiBus, with $152,601 in revenues generated by passenger sales. With a budget of $961,000 this fiscal year, CitiBus employs five bus drivers, a head bus driver and a transit supervisor.

 

By Craig Fox, Times Staff Writer