CENTRO hopes to upgrade some routes to express, reduce wait times by half with funding from infrastructure bill

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Less than a day after President Joe Biden signed the $1 trillion infrastructure funding bill into law, CENTRO in Syracuse already knows how it will likely spend its nearly $20 million allocation.

CENTRO wants to upgrade four of its corridors into what’s called “bus rapid transit,” an express-style transportation strategy that puts more busses on more frequent routes but stopping fewer times.

For instance, busses typically hit every bus stop every 30-40 minutes. The “bus rapid transit” system gets specific popular bus stops a bus every 10-15 minutes, skipping less popular stops.

It allows riders to expect a bus within 10 minutes of arriving at a stop, relying less on a schedule.

The system would also allow the fleet to communicate with city street lights, so an approaching bus can hold a green light from turning red for a few extra seconds before passing through.

The federal government funding would help CENTRO buy more busses and upgrade its bus stop sheds, but only covers about half of the overall cost. The infrastructure grant would not cover payroll for bus drivers or ongoing operational costs in the future.

Currently, CENTRO’s fleet has about 240 busses. 16-18 more vehicles are needed at about $550,000 each, according to the organization’s executive director who spoke at event with Syracuse-area Congressman John Katko on Friday.

More drivers would be needed to operate the busses at a time when CENTRO has 30-35 openings for its current service.

Current routes that plan to be enhanced, identified in a study done by the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council, are James Street, South Avenue, the University corridor, and bus routes to Destiny USA.

Katko, one of 13 House Republicans to vote in favor of the infrastructure bill, has previously asked Congress to fund “bus rapid transit” in Syracuse.

Mayor Ben Walsh has previously said the transportation upgrade is a key step to reducing poverty in Syracuse, citing lack of transportation between impoverished neighborhoods and hiring employers.

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