Philipstown Could Get Mass Transit – of a Sort, County Transport Head Says

Tamagna briefs Town Board

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Under Putnam County plans to expand its transportation network, Philipstown could get mass transit beyond the form provided by the north-south Metro-North commuter railroad and weekend sightseeing trolleys.

The trolleys could get a new, expanded mission under county transportation plans.

The trolleys could get a new, expanded mission under county transportation plans.

In a presentation at the Philipstown Town Board’s formal monthly meeting Thursday night (May 2), Vincent Tamagna, county transportation manager, said county officials hope to use buses — of a sort — to link Putnam’s eastern and western halves and also want to make better use of the visitor-oriented trolleys running through Cold Spring and vicinity.

Unlike the eastern half of the county, which is served by bus lines, “from Kent to Philipstown, there really is no public transportation. And we’re going to change that,” said Tamagna, chairman of the Transportation Task Force set up by the county’s Department of Planning, Development, and Public Transportation. “The good news is that County Executive [MaryEllen] Odell does want to do some east-west connections with the trolleys” or similar smaller vehicles.

Vinny Tamagna explains the Putnam County transit system.

Vinny Tamagna explains the Putnam County transit system.

Bus lines serve Brewster, Putnam Lake, Patterson, Carmel, Mahopac and other locales, but Philipstown lacks anything comparable. The county does provide Office for the Aging buses or vans for some needs of the elderly, and the private Leprechaun bus line stops at Philipstown Square on Route 9 on the northern edge of town, Tamagna noted. But he acknowledged that the Leprechaun line, traveling to Westchester County, remains out of reach to many because the pickup point can only be reached by car. “We’ll probably see how to connect to that” with a shuttle service from Cold Spring, starting next January, he said.

Tamagna likewise outlined ideas for changing the trolley route to go no further south than Boscobel and to connect to hiking paths north of Cold Spring. During the summer, the trolleys can be used much more effectively to bring visitors from the Metro-North train station in Cold Spring to Boscobel for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, which now draws about 34,000 theater-goers annually, Tamagna said. And to accommodate hikers, “we’re definitely going to hit the trailheads. It’s a matter of where,” he said.

Members of the Town Board and audience offered additional ideas, including making the trolleys more accessible to children, even preschoolers in day care; using east-west county transit to help Philipstown families reach mental health services and other medical care in the eastern half of the county; assisting senior citizens; and accommodating residents as much as visitors.

A new Putnam County map shows areas not covered by the county transit system.  Map courtesy of Vincent Tamagna/Putnam County Transportation Task Force

A new Putnam County map shows areas not covered by the county transit system. 
Map courtesy of Vincent Tamagna/Putnam County Transportation Task Force

Councilor Dave Merandy cautioned against merely enhancing services for tourists. “I don’t think that’s really addressing public transportation,” he said. “What good is that to us? We have nothing here. We’re getting shortchanged once again.”

“I did talk about increasing an east-west shuttle to serve the general public,” Tamagna responded. “We’re looking to benefit all the people.”

Garrison fire department follow-up

In other business, Supervisor Richard Shea reported a pleasant upswing in relations with the Garrison Volunteer Fire Company, after testy go-rounds over fire company spending, including the expense of a fifth bathroom at the main firehouse on Route 9. During the latest talks with fire company officials, board representatives “got a complete accounting” of the bathroom expenditures, he said. “We have their assurances no more money will be spent on the bathroom. We can’t have any other money spent on that.”

Questions remain about the GVFC habit of maintaining three fire chief’s trucks — enough for a chief and assistant chiefs. Shea said the GVFC’s intent is to replace the deteriorating truck used by the chief with an improved, albeit used, vehicle. But he expressed skepticism about the need for two additional GVFC trucks.

Merandy observed that other local fire departments get by with one chief’s truck, while the GVFC keeps three. “What’s the rationale?” he asked. “I don’t see why we can’t stop that.”

“We can’t make policy decisions for them,” said Councilor John Van Tassel. He pointed out that fire departments typically have a truck for each chief and assistant or deputy chief, so they can avoid driving personal cars to the site of an emergency. In not having a chief’s truck for each assistant chief in all local fire departments, “we are not the norm,” he said.

The discussion “is definitely to be continued,” said Shea, who recommended a board workshop to review the matter in more depth.

Old Albany Post Road

Shea also reported that even as the Federal Emergency Management Agency began a new archaeological probe at the site of long-awaited repairs to Old Albany Post Road, FEMA sent the crucial “blue book” — definitive documentation — on the project, which involves paving 450 feet at the southern tip of the road, severely damaged by storms several years ago. “So we are approved and ready to go,” he announced.

Photos by L.S. Armstrong

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