GLOVERSVILLE - A Gloversville Transit System bus has the atmosphere of a coffee shop on wheels. Food and drink aren't allowed on board, but the driver and many of the riders are on a first-name basis, and the conversation flows freely.
One sunny afternoon this week, 27-year GTS veteran Ginnette Ostrander was carrying about 10 passengers on the route connecting Gloversville with downtown Johnstown, Fulton-Montgomery Community College and the local industrial parks.
Ostrander said she enjoys getting to know her regular passengers, and the chit-chat makes her day go by faster.
Driver Ginnette Ostrander, a 27-year veteran with the Gloversville Transit System, operates a bus on the campus of FMCC?Thursday afternoon. GTS runs buses on three main routes, shuttling riders among key locations around Gloversville, Johnstown and Amsterdam. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Ackerbauer)
"You meet a lot of good people," she said. "It's nice to say, 'Hi, Jim, how are you?' It's nice to make it a little more personal."
Some riders are like family, Ostrander said, and if a regular passenger doesn't show up on the bus for a while, she worries.
"I didn't think I'd ever find my niche, but I guess this is it, because I like people," she said.
Fares & Routes
The regular fare for any trip within Fulton County on a Gloversville Transit bus is $2.25. The fare for seniors and disabled riders is $2. Children younger than 5 ride free with a fare-paying adult, and youths ages 5 to 17 pay $2 on the "School Tripper" route. The fare to points in Amsterdam is $7 one-way or $14 round-trip.
The main Gloversville route gave more than 17,000 rides last year. The bus makes 12 runs on weekdays, with stops at key points around the city between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. The bus makes six runs on Saturdays, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The industrial parks and FMCC route gave 23,600 rides last year, about 18,500 of them for FM students. The bus makes eight runs each weekday, from 5:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.
The Amsterdam route gave almost 16,600 rides last year. The bus makes four trips daily, from 7:35 a.m. to 4:20 p.m.
GTS Paratransit gave 5,450 rides last year, most of which were Medicaid-reimbursable.
For more details, call GTS?at 773-4528 or go to www.ridegts.com.
Ostrander is one of four full-time drivers employed by Gloversville Transit, which also has three part-timers. Mobility Manager Bill Walrath said he and the department secretary and a mechanic round out the GTS staff. The transit system is overseen by the five-member volunteer Transit Commission.
Gloversville Transit is the only form of public transportation in Fulton County intended for the general public. That is, you don't need to be a student or senior citizen or have a disability to take advantage of the service. GTS?riders come from all walks of life, and for people who don't drive or own a car, the service is indispensable.
Roxanne Tyrrell of Gloversville, one of Ostrander's passengers this week, said she rides the bus about five times per month.
"The drivers are nice and polite," she said. "And it's cheaper than paying for cab fares."
A rider on a bus headed from Gloversville to Johnstown on Thursday said he rides two or three times per week. The man, who asked that his name not be mentioned, said he lost his driver's license because of a drinking-and-driving offense, and he uses GTS to get to a counseling program in downtown Gloversville. He said his experiences riding the bus have been positive.
"The buses are always clean, and they are right on time," he said.
Emily Deering, a Gloversville resident who attends FMCC, said the bus service to and from the college is convenient and fits her schedule well.
On weekdays, the FMCC bus also makes stops in the early morning and afternoon at the Glove Cities Industrial Park and the Crossroads Industrial Park, and it stops near the Stewart's Shop in downtown Johnstown more than a dozen times a day.
GTS offers four daily runs to hospitals and medical offices in Amsterdam, making stops along the way in Vail Mills, Perth and at the Amsterdam Walmart store. GTS routes connect with the Amsterdam Transportation Department's routes at FMCC and at several points in Amsterdam, and from there people can ride east to Albany or as far west as St. Johnsville on Montgomery County's MAX bus service.
"We'll stop anywhere along the way where someone wants to go" between the regular stops, Walrath said. Riders just have to pull the cord that alerts the driver to stop.
The busiest GTS route is a circuit of key points around Gloversville itself, including regular stops at Nathan Littauer Hospital.
"We're up at the hospital at quarter of every hour," Walrath said. "And the nice thing about this is it's the same place, same time, different hour, so it's a nice hourly schedule."
Ostrander said the Gloversville route serves many seniors who need transportation to doctor's appointments, the pharmacy or the grocery store.
"They really rely on it," she said. "Most of them can't drive, most don't own a car ... they can't afford a taxi."
Ostrander said she enjoys her conversations with older riders: "Some of the seniors will tell you about Gloversville in its heyday, and they'll tell you things you'd never know - it's nice to hear that stuff."
GTS also caters to young riders, offering a "School Tripper" route with a reduced fare for children ages 5 to 17. It makes stops in the mornings and afternoons at all the schools in the city.
The system also offers a paratransit service through which medically qualified individuals can request door-to-door transportation. All the GTS buses are equipped to accommodate riders who use wheelchairs.
A few years ago, when Gloversville's financial situation was especially bleak, city officials discussed the possibility of shutting down the Gloversville Transit System to save money. Routes from Gloversville to Northville, Mayfield and Broadalbin were eliminated, and the former Johnstown route was cut in November 2010 after that city declined to contribute more than $30,000 per year to support it.
Walrath, who has managed GTS since June 2011, said more changes might be made in the months ahead, but they will be designed to serve riders' needs rather than cut costs.
He said the transit system recently printed new bus schedules and maps to make them easier to understand, and he wants to make some improvements and updates to the GTS website.
Mayor Dayton King this week announced on his Facebook page that more route changes are being planned.
"I want to be sure that people know that our buses will be going to the new Walmart Supercenter when it opens," King wrote. "We will have our new routes available as the opening day draws closer."
Features Editor Bill Ackerbauer can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.