RTS CEO Bill Carpenter and RGRTA Board of Commissioners Chairman Jim Redmond announced RTS will discontinue its partnership with the Rochester City School District when its current contract expires in June.
Officials said the decision would result in the elimination of 144 jobs.
RTS made the move after several recent incidents of violence involving students transferring buses at the new, $50 million RTS Transit Center, and a call from the mayor to stop busing RCSD students downtown.
“As our region’s public transportation provider, our first priority is to fulfill our mission to provide safe, reliable, and convenient public transit,” Carpenter stated. “Several student-related incidents at the RTS Transit Center have fostered a perception among customers of all ages, and across our community, that the RTS Transit Center is not a safe environment. Because of our concern for the well-being of everyone we serve, RTS will no longer provide transportation to the Rochester City School District after the current school year ends in June.”
Carpenter said the current model, customized to serve large volumes of students, was no longer working.
“RTS cannot sustain the operational, safety, financial, customer service and reputational impacts resulting from these incidents,” he stated.
RTS plans to offset the effects of the layoffs by moving employees to other parts of the company, as well as implementing an early retirement program.
About 40 people who work at the company would likely be able to take advantage of the retirement program, according to officials.
However, although RTS plans to cancel its contract with the school district, RCSD said in a statement that the district would still have no choice but to provide students with public transportation bus passes.
“The abrupt decision by RTS to end 37 years of service makes it exceptionally difficult for the district to provide transportation for our secondary students this summer, and in the next school year,” RCSD Superintendent Bolgen Vargas stated. “We will have no other choice but to provide our students daily passes to access the public transportation system. This model is currently used in Buffalo, and many other urban centers, with great success.”
The district also said it had been negotiating a new contact with RTS recently, including a plan to reduce the number of students transferring downtown by 40 percent, which had been scheduled to go into effect May 4.
However, as a result of the end of its partnership with RTS, the district said its only option will be to provide regular public transportation for students, and eliminate the express routes which had been planned for students through RTS.
“Providers of door-to-door ‘yellow bus’ service have told the district that they could not have drivers and equipment in place for all secondary students in time for the next school year,” RCSD stated. “That makes regular public transportation the only option for the district, which is legally required to provide transportation for city students wherever they attend school.”
Mayor Lovely Warren supported RTS’ decision, which she said would address community concerns regarding public safety.
“Today’s RTS announcement addressed community concerns regarding safety at the transit center,” she stated. “Safety is our primary concern for all of our residents, especially for our children who deserve safe passage to and from school. We are all committed to providing a safer, more vibrant community and an educational environment that allows our children, families and residents to thrive.”