Owego, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The Tioga County public transportation system may be making its final stops, after state Medicaid transportation takes the majority of its passengers.
Tioga County Transit has been losing passengers since October, county officials said. Tioga County legislators said it's because Gov. Andrew Cuomo pulled back Medicaid services to the state level, meaning the state is paying for the transportation of Medicaid patients.
Tioga Transit, formerly known at Ride Tioga, used to take close to 1,000 people to medical appointments each month. But now, the state pays for them to ride in private taxis. Just eight of 992 Medicaid riders still take the bus.
According to a study done by the county, just 200 people ride the bus system a month, mostly in the Ithaca area.
Before the private Medicaid transportation service, the county received one third --- about $440,000 -- of its transportation budget from the state.
The governor's program kicked in last October. Tioga County Chairwoman Martha Sauerbrey said the county did not know of the change until it saw the decline in passengers.
"Now this is money that we did not budget for, that we were not prepared for. So now we have to make a decision, you know, do we want to carry on this bus system?" Sauerbrey said.
If the county keeps the bus system, taxes would go up about 2 percent to close that gap; or it could get rid of the program all together.
"I think people are resilient, I think they will come up with other options. Will some people fall through the cracks? Yes they will. Medicaid people will be taken care of, they're riding in cabs to door to door. But the ridership back and forth to work, for some of them, they may have to carpool," Sauerbrey said.
Now, county legislators are looking to the people of Tioga County to help them decide if the public transportation system should stay.
Sauerbrey said it's a matter of whether taxpayers would be willing to see their property taxes to go up 2 percent to keep Tioga Transit.
To contact Tioga County, visit the Tioga County website.
Sauerbrey said the legislature hopes to make a decision within the next six months.