Concern in Northport over bus route safety

From left to right, Karen Lemke, her son From left to right, Karen Lemke, her son Roland, 7, Jane Smith, Christina Adams and her son Brett, 3, and daughter Hadley, 7, stand in front of a Hart bus. They are among Northport residents concerned about the new route of the Hart bus, which now comes up the narrow street of Scudder Avenue. (June 5, 2013) Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

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Dozens of Northport residents are opposing a section of a new Huntington Town-operated bus route, and village and town officials say they will sit down soon to address those worries.

"The safety issue is our main concern," said Christina Adams, one of about 80 people who signed a petition opposing the change.

"This is an accident that is going to happen and someone is going to get hurt," said Adams, who lives on Scudder Avenue, along the new route.

New Huntington Area Rapid Transit bus routes went into effect throughout the town on Jan. 2, after a town-hired consultant finished a three-year study. The consultant analyzed the decades-old routes and made several recommendations, including eliminating bus service to Main Street in Northport, town officials said.

On the old route, buses traveling between the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Walt Whitman Mall in Melville went down Main Street in Northport, the village's principal business street, turned around at the harbor and came back the same way. Now, the buses travel down Main Street and return via Scudder Avenue, a more residential street.

Northport Mayor George Doll said he objects to the new route unless town officials "can convince me there is a good reason for it."

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Doll said that when he meets with the town, he wants to discuss why the route was changed, adding he would like to see the buses return to their original route.

Huntington officials said the public had several chances to comment on the consultant's recommendations, including public sessions last year. But several village residents said they didn't hear about the sessions until after they were held.

"We were very upset that we weren't notified," said Jane Smith, who lives on Scudder Avenue.

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The consultant recommended eliminating bus services to Main Street altogether, said Stephen McGloin, town director of transportation and traffic safety. After hearing from the public, the town decided to maintain service there, but with a different route. McGloin said several people pleaded that they needed the buses to get to work, and that they boost business in the village.

McGloin said a village merchant suggested using Scudder Avenue, so his department and HART officials analyzed the road to make sure it would be safe and would work in their time frame.

"And it did work. It was tight, but it did work," he said.

McGloin said one of the reasons Main Street wasn't included in the consultant's study was declining ridership.

"We looked at how we could increase ridership," he said. "Going down Main Street and up Scudder gave us a better chance to increase ridership."

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He said buses have been picking up people on Scudder. "I think it was a good idea to utilize Scudder."

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