While upstate New York transit authorities may not be as large as New York City’s MTA, they play an integral role in the communities that they serve. These transit authorities are trying to come back from the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues as they get people on their way.

Bill Carpenter, CEO of the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority and president of the New York Public Transit Association, told Capital Tonight that as more riders return, they are looking for more frequency and options.

Ridership plunged during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when many businesses and public spaces were closed to limit the spread of the virus. Carpenter said that the upstate transit authorities are seeing a ridership return with some cities like Albany nearly back to their pre-pandemic levels.

But as these regional transit authorities make up for lost ridership, they are also facing a challenge to offer more services like scooters, bikes and other on-demand options while covering their operating costs. Carpenter said that these authorities used federal COVID-19 resources to cover operating costs but as those funds go away, there is a gap that they need to fill with state help.

Upstate public transit systems also help riders lower their carbon footprint by using a bus over their car. This raises another issue as the state tries to reach its ambitious climate goals from the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Carpenter said his organization in Rochester could see a bill for half a billion dollars to completely change over their fleet to zero emission buses.