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Elbridge transport program gains momentum

Seniors in the town of Elbridge will soon be able to catch a ride on a shiny new $47,000 11-passenger bus, part of the anticipated town-wide Senior Transportation System.

Town Councilor Rita Dygert said she has been meeting with representatives of the senior community to develop a schedule to best meet the needs of local seniors. The tentative schedule designates a few weekdays for out-of-town trips, and reserves other days for local routes.

Dygert said Tuesdays and Fridays particularly would be reserved for in-town trips because those are days senior luncheons are normally held.

She also said she'd met with Joe Southern, who coordinates the senior transportation in Skaneateles, and that she plans to base the Elbridge system around the Skaneateles framework.

"We're looking to pattern ours after Skaneateles," Dygert said. "They've been so successful."

One of the biggest obstacles the program will face -- now that the vehicle has been purchased -- is filling the driver's seat. The Skaneateles program runs with 60 volunteers, but Elbridge board members have no illusions that for them, drivers will probably be harder to come by.

Dygert said the Elbridge FISH (Friends in Service Here) volunteer driving program, established in the 1970s, has seen a sharp decline in volunteers willing to provide transportation in recent years, while the need for such drivers increased as senior population grew simultaneously.

"It seems that over time the volunteer drivers became seniors in need of rides themselves," Dygert said, adding that seniors constitute approximately 25 percent of the population of Elbridge.

This year, the town board moved to prevent a shortage of volunteers by budgeting $7,000 to create a part-time driver position.

Slick wheels

The new vehicle, a Shepard Bros., Inc. Phoenix commercial bus was made possible in large part to a $40,000 grant secured through Sen. John DeFrancisco's office.

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