Riders of the New Paltz LOOP bus will soon have weekend service added to the current Monday through Friday schedule, and regular passengers couldn’t be happier about it. “I feel like my life is transformed now, because I have another option on the weekend,” said village resident Rosalyn Cherry, who does without a car in favor of getting around town on the LOOP. And as she pointed out, even residents with cars can use the LOOP to run errands and do a little shopping, reducing their carbon footprint and avoiding the hassles of navigating traffic and finding parking spots.
Beginning Saturday, August 30, the LOOP bus will run on weekends from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The route will be slightly shorter than it is on weekdays, concentrating on service within the village. The weekend LOOP bus will originate at Main and Prospect where the Trailways bus station is, then go to Stop & Shop and ShopRite before looping through the SUNY campus and coming back on Route 208 to Main Street. (On weekdays, the 20-passenger bus begins its 30-minute continuous loop at BOCES on Route 32, turning down either Main Street or Henry W. Dubois Drive, going to ShopRite and Stop & Shop before circling through the SUNY campus and returning to BOCES. The weekday routes run from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
The LOOP bus service has been running weekdays since January of 2009. It was created following a study by the state Department of Transportation (DOT) that concluded New Paltz should have a public transportation system to reduce its traffic congestion. At the same time, students at SUNY New Paltz — many of whom live on campus without access to a car — were expressing interest in establishing a bus service to get around town more easily. So the LOOP bus came into being as a collaboration between some pretty disparate entities: the Town of New Paltz, the DOT, Ulster County Area Transit (UCAT) and the SUNY New Paltz Student Association, headed at the time by its then-president, Ben Olsen. According to Gail Gallerie, chair of New Paltz’s Transportation Implementation Committee (TIC), which was instrumental in getting the LOOP bus service off and running, it’s a unique situation to have such a service organized in a community in this way.
The addition of Saturday and Sunday to the schedule is thanks to some lobbying by SUNY New Paltz students, who expressed the need for expanded LOOP bus service at a TIC forum earlier this year. According to Melissa Kaczmarek, who handles media relations for the college, the SUNY New Paltz Students Association voted in May to approve an increase to their student activity fees in part to pay for weekend LOOP bus service. Over the summer, she said, the students met with reps of UCAT and ITC along with the town supervisor and village trustees to discuss extending the service to weekends and collectively came to an agreement. The student activity fees were increased $5 per semester, from $100 to $105.
The fare for (non-student) residents of New Paltz to ride the LOOP bus will remain at 50 cents on the weekdays, 25 cents for seniors between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., but rise to $1 on the weekends. The difference in fees on the weekend for the general public arises from the way the bus is funded for the new weekend service, said Gallerie. While the student fares (and those of faculty and staff) are paid for on both weekday and weekend service through their student activity fees, rides for (non-student) residents are subsidized by funding from the county, state and federal government for weekday fares but only by the town and student fees over the weekend.
The fuel for the LOOP bus is provided by the college, who paid more than $19,000 to the town and UCAT to help cover the costs during the fiscal year 2012-2013, Kaczmarek said.
The LOOP bus is handicapped-accessible and fitted with a bike rack. The service connects with other transit systems in Dutchess and Orange counties as well as with the Trailways bus. Visitors can get off a bus from New York City, for example, and ride around New Paltz on the LOOP, shopping and dining at area businesses. They can also get on one of the New York bus tours if they want to see all that New York has to offer. Passengers on Metro-North Railroad who get off at the Poughkeepsie station can take a LINK bus from there to New Paltz and do the same.
For more information, visit www. newpaltz.org/getaround.html. ++