Shuttle bus routes threatened

The “D Bus” and “342-ABUS” are two of Oswego’s major shuttle bus transportation services. Both have recently come under fire for their transportation of students to off campus houses. Residents, mainly from the 1st and 3rd wards of the city, have brought the problem to the attention of the City of Oswego Common Council and are looking for changes to be made.

The 1st Ward spans from the Oswego State campus to the Oswego River, and is separated from the 3rd NYS Route 104 West, part of 5th Avenue down to Utica Street, and Utica Street to the river.

They would like to see changes to Chapter 228, taxicabs (buses), of the code of the city of Oswego. The changes would limit the private bus transportation services to only main streets of the city, like Bridge Street. According to Councilor Michael Todd, (Third ward – Republican), “All of the bus stuff is off the table.”

“No one on this common council wants to stop the buses,” Todd said. The plan discusses the regulation of the buses, from nine in the evening to six in the morning, so that they can only operate on the city of Oswego’s main roads. Bridge Street, Washington, New York State Route 104, parts of 5th street, are most of the streets that the buses will be confined to.

“We don’t want to put the buses out of business,” Todd added, “we want a more direct route.”

Todd also stated that the problem was not with the college students, “A lot of it comes from people in the community who have grown up here, this is not a college issue.” Something Allen Chase, owner of “342-ABUS,” strongly disagrees with, “99.8% of patrons on the buses are college students, to say this is not a problem with the students is dead wrong.” Todd reassures that the problem the common council has is not with the students, “To be honest with you, I think that the drinking age should be at 18.”

Chase felt that this change in city code was discrimination against not only the college aged population but, the bus services themselves. By limiting the buses to nonresidential areas, Chase says, it’s the same as limiting college students to nonresidential areas. “This is taking something that is pinpoint to more widespread,” Chase said.

Todd explained how the majority of the citizens in these wards are in their 80s and 90s and would prefer not to deal with a mob of students on their lawns making noise at one in the morning. He wants those who end up in these neighborhoods to keep the noise down until they are inside the house, where they should still keep noise to a point where it can’t be heard from outside.

What the Common Council is currently in the process of is changing the taxicab laws to create a safer environment for those who utilize their services. “Drivers will have to go through a full police background investigation, because what we have found is that there are violent sex offenders driving these taxis,” Todd said. The councilman is concerned for the younger generations who utilize these types of services.

“I’ve been told by other members of the Common Council that this is to help even the playing field,” said Chase, “I reject the idea.” Chase feels that this will only help give the Common Council an argument to regulate the bus routes. By law, taxicabs are regulated by the city while buses are regulated by the New York State Department of Transportation. Chase explained, “Our drivers go through DOT training, a full background check through the police, and the FBI reviews their fingerprints.” Chase explains how none of his drivers can have felonies and how their driving records are constantly monitored. Chase fully supports the changes for taxicabs saying, “that they should be on par with the buses.”

“We’re not serving on the buses, we’re not the partying location, we just transport patrons to the locations, blaming us for the partying is like blaming a beer delivery guy for a DUI accident,” Chase explained. For right now talks about the bus regulations are at a stand still. Lee Walker, owner of the “D Bus,” says, “They [the city] got a ruling back from DOT saying it’s a done deal, it’s a dead issue.” Walker discusses how they just provide the transportation service and how it’s not their business what goes on where they go.

Both bus owners agreed that the citizens of Oswego have the right to bring this problem to the Common Council. Chase expressed his sympathy with the neighborhoods and has even offered to head task forces designed to curb the disturbances. “I offered to partially fund the creation of a commercial for the campus television station [WTOP], even to hand out pamphlets on the buses showing what the disturbances are causing,” Chase said. He has proposed his idea to city official with no response as of yet.