CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Cheektowaga businesses are searching for transportation alternatives for their employees, saying a lack of public transportation in the area is a hiring barrier.
"There are people out there who want to work and can't work because they can't get to the employers," said Kathy Pede, HR Manage at Rosina Food Products.
Local businesses along with representatives from the NFTA, Enterprise Car Rental, the Cheektowaga Chamber of Commerce, and State Senator Tim Kennedy's office among others gathered Wednesday to find a solution.
Rowan Watson, who serves on Enterprise's transportation committee presented the businesses with a "vanpooling" option. It's essentially carpooling, but Enterprise provides the car. Enterprise does not provide a driver; the employees are responsible for driving themselves to and from work. Employees are often grouped into vans by where they live. Multiple businesses with employees living in the same areas have the option to share the vans.
"The benefit of that is because your giving back to your employees, or the citizens the ability to drive themselves and not having to mirror what a bus is like by waiting for a bus, connecting, etc," Watson said.
Watson said businesses will often front the cost at first, and then employees will pay for the vanpooling themselves if they wish to participate. He estimated the cost for an individual employee using the service to be around the price of a monthly bus pass.
The NFTA said it encourages vanpooling in this situation, offering flexibility it can't provide. Examples of that flexibility include being able to stop at the corner of Union Road and Innsbruck Drive (right in front of Costanzo's Bakery and Gordon Companies). There used to be a bus stop in 2012, but the NFTA did away with it in 2012 due to low ridership.
Other examples are the hours. Employees can use vanpooling any hour of the day, whereas some of the businesses said the NFTA's bus schedule did not allow their early/late shift workers to get to and from work.
People at Wednesday's meeting described finding a solution as a community effort. Senator Tim Kennedy, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, said he's personally committed to the effort and looks forward to working with the Cheektowaga Chamber of Commerce, the NFTA, and the businesses.
Rosina Foods and Gordon Companies said they are optimistic about vanpooling, but nothing is set in stone yet. The next step is having further conversations with Enterprise about the logistics.