Bus Service to Be
Reality in Monticello
By John Emerson
MONTICELLO March 24, 2000 -- It has been more than 35 years since Monticello had local bus service available for its residents, but that will change soon now that the state Department of Transportation has approved Catskill Transits proposal.
Weve worked very hard, and we finally made it, said the companys owner and chief executive officer, Tony Leach. There were times when it looked like it was never going to happen, but we made it.
Leach, 27, originally proposed the service last fall, suggesting that the village needed a low-cost public transportation option. Desperate village and town residents immediately grasped the idea like a drowning man grabs a life preserver.
At a DOT public hearing held last month, dozens of village and town residents along the proposed route pleaded with the hearing officer to grant Leachs proposal. The approval finally came early this week.
Now that its going to be here, I hope the public supports it, said Thompson Town Councilman Richard Sush, who worked closely with Leach on gaining the necessary approvals. This is something residents said they need and wanted, so I hope everyone benefits from the service.
The service was not universally acclaimed, however, and received continuing opposition from Alan Kesten, the owner of Yellow Cab, and executives from Shortline, which provides bus service within Sullivan County.
Yesterday, Kesten offered an olive branch to Leach.
I wish Mr. Leach the best of luck on his business venture, Kesten said. Ive never had anything against him personally, but of course its going to hurt me and my business. It remains to be seen exactly how much its going to hurt.
The service also became a political issue during the recent village election when Mayor Gary Sommers said he had several questions about the proposal especially involving the safety of establishing bus stops within certain areas of the village. Now that the state has approved the service, it will be up to Leach, Sommers and members of the village board to establish stops for the service.
Leach said yesterday that establishing the specific route and the stops along that route is his principal concern at the moment. He said if everything goes smoothly with the village board he could be up and running in about three weeks. If there are problems establishing bus stops along the route, it could take much longer.
Leach plans to operate two buses circling within the village and its outskirts. He will initially charge $1.50 per ride, with students and senior citizens paying $1.
He will also be facing competition from Yellow Cab. Kesten said he is establishing a frequent rider program, perhaps as early as next week.
The new program will give people who often use taxicabs to make their way around town a free ride for every ten rides they take.
Were trying to reward people who take our cabs, Kesten said. Were going to ask people to come in to the office, and well give them a frequent rider card that they show to the driver. Our computer system will keep track of the average fare, and the 11th ride of average value will be free.
In the meantime, Leach is busy hiring drivers, painting his buses and getting ready to open his bus service. Hes also busy thanking the people who supported him through the state approval process.
[Rolling V Bus Company owner] Phil Vallone and Richard Sush get a lot of the credit for helping us get this done, Leach said. Theyve been there from the very beginning and really supported us all the way.
The last time the village had bus service available was in the late 1950s or early 1960s, when shuttle buses ran to outlying bungalow colonies to bring summer residents into town, said former Town of Thompson historian and now town council member John Washington. The system was operated by Ralph Meyer, who also owned a taxi company and provided the service only in the summer season.