Centro passengers, officials call for additional government support
Those who use mass transit in Syracuse are calling for additional funding to support expanded service. They gathered Wednesday at the Centro hub downtown as part of a series of events statewide to mark Transit Equity Week. Long-time advocate Agnes McCray uses a wheelchair, and in the 1980’s, chained herself to a Centro bus to urge them to install ramps. Decades later, she says Centro has made significant progress to the point where she can almost always rely on them.
“Right now, there is no other transportation that can really keep up with my very, very busy schedule," McCray said. Sometimes I'm riding Centro three or four times a day, even if it's 5:00 in the morning to catch a train.”
Charles Hudson is McCray’s son and caretaker, and also uses the bus to Onondaga Community College.
“Without Centro it would be extremely difficult to make it out in the community, because even with Lyft and Uber, these are transportation vendors that do not have ramps and whatnot,” Hudson said.
But he and McCray say additional funding would make the service stronger, with added routes and frequency.
Onondaga County Legislator Maurice Brown says towns also need to be part of the conversation.
"Transportation is not just a city issue," Brown said. "With so many jobs that are going to be appearing in the northern suburbs, so many jobs that already are places like East Syracuse, Town of Clay, out in Manlius with St. Joes, all of these jobs that we have to be able to get people to."
Centro officials have said funding is the primary barrier to adding routes and frequency.
Deputy CEO Christopher Tuff says they’re advocating for a 15 percent increase in operating assistance, far more than the 5.4 percent proposed by Governor Kathy Hochul in her executive budget. And, he says she also proposed about $20 million less in capital funding, which pays for buses and facilities.
“The state operating and state capital funding is certainly important, but you know to continue to invest in our communities and continue to expand our community, we have to make sure that that allocation is going to be higher than what it has been in previous years or continue to be there,” Tuff said.
Centro brings in very little revenue from fares, and relies heavily on state and federal funding to stay afloat.