The closing of the North American border that separates the United States and Canada has complicated the lives of many Plattsburgh students. With the return of in person classes, students are once again flooding the campus and populating the city of Plattsburgh.
A large portion of SUNY Plattsburgh’s population comes from downstate, often in and around New York City. Many of these students do not have cars. The question of public transportation to get these students home and back to school is a largely unanswered one.
Tom Martinelli, publisher at New York by Rail, said “Due to the border closing and the pandemic, the service has been suspended north of Albany as Montréal is the largest ridership destination of this route.”
College Auxiliary Services provide a single bus to and from the city for the beginning and end of the semester and every break. It’s a $140.00 round trip on a first come, first serve basis.
Dana Kellerman, executive director of CAS, said there are buses and trains between Albany and the city, but nothing provided north of the capital.
Senior Alicia Fisher, who lives in New York City when not at school, remembers a time before COVID-19 where she could easily find a cheap bus ticket or train ride home any weekend of the year. Now she can’t even find a way home for the break without asking someone to drive five hours to pick her up.
“I wanted to go home for fall break, but they only provide that one bus at that specific time,” Fisher said. “It doesn’t work into a schedule for a lot of us, like student athletes. I had a volleyball tournament the first day of break, but it still would have been nice to go home for the days following that.”
Living efficiently without a car is an issue present in most towns and smaller cities in the United States. For students at SUNY Plattsburgh and other upstate colleges, being able to go home and visit their families should be more accessible.
Removing public transportation services due to a smaller population using them is an issue with federal and state budgets. Those living or traveling to more rural areas have had to suffer the consequences of these shut downs.
Multiple attempts to contact Amtrak gave way to no new information. The email address on the Amtrak website went unresponsive to three emails sent over a week-long period.
When trying to find a phone number to call, there were no numbers listed online for individual stations, only the customer service number. This led to a train of automated questions, promising that a representative will get back to you as soon as they can.
Looking toward the future, there is hesitance with the announcement of the Canadian border reopening in November. No official statement has been made by Amtrak or any public bus service.
Martinelli said restoring the services in the Adirondack region “is a decision made by the New York State DOT Rail Division in conjunction with Amtrak.”