We Need More Data On Chautauqua County Transportation Issues

We have no doubt that nonprofits and businesses are telling the truth when they say transportation is a major issue for county resident trying to get to work, doctor’s appointments, school or any number of things each day.

“Transportation has been consistently cited by job seekers and businesses as a barrier to obtaining employment and employees as well as successfully maintaining employment and retaining employees,” said Katie Geise, Workforce Investment Board executive director, during a discussion amongst local employers, nonprofit organizations, policy makers and the ridesharing app Uber last week. “Any additional economical transportation options and resources to assist in making such options accessible throughout Chautauqua County will have a positive impact on the area’s workforce.”

Uber Central, which Uber offers organizations to request, manage and pay for rides for others, is working to get off the ground and could be part of the solution. Organizations can use Uber Central to get their customers, patients, guests and clients where they need them, at no cost to the individual. We’re sure Uber, as a private company, isn’t creating Uber Central out of the kindness of its corporate heart.

The company, and its drivers, expect to make money — just as local taxi cab companies do. The county still runs CARTS, but its ridership decreased by about 4.5 percent from 2016 to 2017. While some of that decrease was accounted for by a change in the way medical trips are assigned, CARTS officials told legislators last year during budget deliberations that the increase in private paying riders wasn’t enough to overcome the decrease in medical rides. What role could, or should, CARTS play?

That question makes us wonder what the real transportation issue is here in Chautauqua County. How many people say they can’t work because of transportation? 10? 20? 100? 500? How many people are missing doctor’s appointments? Where do they live? Are there doctor’s offices that are located in a particular trouble spot? Of the people who have trouble getting from point A to point B, what is their particular issue with their preferred mode of transportation — lack of availability, high costs or other issues?

Again, we have no reason to doubt that there are very real transportation issues in Chautauqua County, but the problem can’t be solved until policy makers have some real data at their disposal.

These are the types of questions that need to be answered before policy makers can begin solving the county’s transportation issues.