Cities may consider combining bus service

JOHNSTOWN – Local officials will meet to talk about the possibility of establishing a new municipal bus service among the cities of Gloversville, Johnstown and Amsterdam.

Johnstown Mayor Michael Julius and Gloversville Mayor Dayton King said they are talking about the idea.

Meanwhile, the Gloversville Transit System will not come to Johnstown this year, Julius said.

He said his city has scrapped pursuing renewal of GTS bus runs in Johnstown until at least 2015.

Julius, who said Wednesday he informed King of Johnstown’s intentions, said the 2014 Johnstown budget crafted last year by former Mayor Sarah Slingerland and the Common Council left no room for extra bus funding this year.

The GTS buses to Johnstown stopped running in November 2010 when the cities failed to negotiate a new contract after the old one ended.

“The problem is I’m working on somebody else’s budget. We’re shooting for next year,” Julius said.

However, Julius said an alternative way to get bus service to Johnstown could involve a combined bus service among local cities.

He said Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger said the state Department of Transportation indicated there could be “significant savings” if the cities of Gloversville, Johnstown and Amsterdam created a combined transit system.

“We’re hoping to be looking into that,” Julius said.

King said officials from the cities of Gloversville, Johnstown and Amsterdam hope to get together at a meeting about the issue in the next couple weeks. He said the hope is there can be a “meaningful conversation” about the idea.

“This could save a whole bunch of money,” King said.

Neither Swanger nor Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane could be reached this morning for comment.

Johnstown Councilman-at-Large Christopher Swatt said today he’s aware Julius is a “fan” of bringing bus runs back to Johnstown.

“But if there’s no money, there’s no money,” Swatt said.

Julius said when he ran for office last fall, one of his priorities as mayor would be to look into renewing GTS bus runs through the city of Johnstown. Julius says he has spoken to many Johnstown residents who want to see extensive GTS bus runs again.

The local bus service, which in 2010 offered 13 routes on weekdays, ran in a loop that connected residents of both cities with senior housing developments, downtown Johnstown and Gloversville, the Johnstown Mall, Arterial Plaza and Hannaford and the former Walmart in the town of Johnstown.

“I spoke to Mike [Julius] and he had hoped we could do something this year,” King said.

The Gloversville Common Council voted to discontinue service to Johnstown after Johnstown officials declined to increase the city’s contribution for the service. Johnstown had been paying $38,100 per year to subsidize the service.

One of Julius’ goals upon taking office was to “find funding” to bring GTS runs back to Johnstown. He called such an initiative as a “positive step toward improving the quality of life of this community.”

“Public transportation will allow our citizens easier access to the public library, the community center, the senior center, the YMCA and local shopping,” Julius said in his State of the City address.