By John Emerson
MONTICELLO September 29, 2000 A new era in transportation arrived in and around the Village of Monticello yesterday when Catskill Transit opened a public transportation bus service to the public for the first time.
Town, county and village politicians and bureaucrats were on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremonies marking the inauguration of the service yesterday morning at the Thompson Town Hall. Catskill Transit owner Tony Leach, who originally had hoped to start running his buses in March, was on hand to kick off the celebration.
Leach, 27, originally proposed the service last October and believed he would be open in the spring. Village and town residents immediately grasped the idea like a drowning man grabs a life preserver.
There were, however, roadblocks and pitfalls Leach never anticipated when he started working on the service. First there were the state Department of Transportation public hearings and opposition from Yellow Cab and Shortline. Then came the need to establish an exact route and resolve bus stop locations within the village. Finally, Leachs original financial backing withdrew from the project, and he was forced to find alternate funding.
Through it all, he persevered and maintained that the service was needed and would be supported by the community. His determination and conviction were rewarded with the first run of the service yesterday.
Im ecstatic about this, said Thompson Councilman Richard Sush, who worked with Leach as he worked his way through the regulatory minefields. Now that ShopRite and Wal-Mart are both out of the village, it made it nearly impossible for people without cars to even buy food. This is going to be the thread that holds the community together.
The bus route essentially begins at Sleepy Hollow Apartments on Route 42 south of the village and serves most of the major apartment complexes within the village. It also includes major stops at the Sullivan County Government Center, the Farmers Market, Apollo Plaza, Ames Mall, Wal-Mart, Monticello Raceway and Kinnebrook Mobile Home Park before returning to Sleepy Hollow. Leach said the entire route takes about an hour to complete, and his two buses will run a staggered schedule approximately every 30 minutes.
Fares are $1.50 per ride for adults, $1.00 for senior citizens and students with appropriate identification and $.50 for children. Infants and toddlers ride free with an adult.
Before members of the audience climbed aboard the bus for its initial abbreviated run, Leach asked that people be patient as he and his drivers settle in to the new routine.
This is all new to me, he said. Im still learning about everything. Its going to take a little while, but were going to offer the service that we promised to offer.