Ulster County planning officials and consultants got more than they’d bargained for when they conducted a public workshop in the Student Union Building at SUNY-New Paltz on Thursday, Nov. 21 seeking answers to the question, “Does New Paltz need a new bus station?” About 50 local residents turned out, the majority of them identifying themselves as regular users of Adirondack Trailways, the Ulster County Area Transit (UCAT) loop bus or both. Although the workshop was advertised as “an early step in an ongoing planning process for the New Paltz Intermodal Feasibility Study, conducted by [the] Ulster County Transportation Council,” that “early step” bit apparently hadn’t gotten across: Many of the attendees seemed fearful that an unasked-for government “solution in search of a problem” was about to be shoved down their throats and a few of them were downright irate — at least initially.
Dennis Doyle, chairman of the Ulster County Department of Planning, Transportation and Business Services, opened the meeting with a brief history of the process in play, explaining that the results of a grant-funded countywide transit study in 2012 had included a recommendation that alternatives to the existing bus station in New Paltz receive further study. A Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), including county, town and village officials, planners and other stakeholders such as bus company representatives, was set up to examine this and other challenges identified in the initial study and consider alternatives. The meeting in New Paltz on Thursday was to be the first of several in a public process to determine optimal approaches to meet the needs of local bus commuters.
Doyle then introduced Michael Allen of Behan Planning and Design, a firm that had been retained, along with NelsonNygaard Consulting Associates and Alfandre Architects, as consultants to the project. Allen walked the attendees through a PowerPoint presentation summarizing the pros and cons of the current bus station site and listing goals and steps in the planning process. According to the initial study, he said, the main issues plaguing the station, located at 139 Main Street on the corner of Prospect Street, include inadequate parking for commuters; tight vehicular circulation through the Trailways parking lot; traffic backups on Main Street, making it often impossible for buses to stay on schedule; the difficulty of making left turns onto Main Street from Prospect, sometimes requiring a police officer to direct traffic; and the fact that the existing site is already fully built-out.
On the other hand, Allen noted, the current bus station site confers certain benefits, notably the fact that it is within reasonable walking distance of most of the village and the SUNY New Paltz campus. Shops and services are located nearby and the station fits in visually with the architecture of the surrounding community.