In recognition of its help reducing car-commuting through support of the Ridgefield-Katonah Shuttle bus service, Jesse Lee Methodist Church had $2,043 in taxes abated by the town.
While much church property is tax exempt, Jesse Lee rents out a 50-car parking lot used by commuters taking the shuttle bus to the Katonah train station, and as an income-producing rental property the lot doesn’t qualify for a religious property exemption.
“This tax bill represents a hardship for our church,” Virginia Knopf of Jesse Lee told the selectmen.
The Katonah Shuttle is a program in which the town of Ridgefield, the Danbury-based Housatonic Area Regional Transit (HART) bus service, and both Connecticut and New York state transportation departments have collaborated for years now. It provides bus rides that take Ridgefielders and other nearby Connecticut residents to and from the train service to New York City available at the Katonah, train station.
HART pays Jesse Lee $15,000 a year rental for the use of the parking area, Knopf said.
Every 10 years or so they repave their lot, at a cost of about $130,000, she said.
The program has been quite successful and, after the 50-car lot at Jesse Lee became regularly filled, HART added a second pickup and drop-off spot at the parking lot by the dog park on Prospect Ridge.
“Our ridership has dropped off a few percentage points,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.
Earlier in its history, use of the shuttle had been growing 8% or 9% a year.
“I asked last year,” said Knopf. “They answered 200 to 250 riders a day.”
“That’s 250 cars not on the road — that was the purpose,” said Marconi.
The HART shuttle schedule shows the first five buses to Katonah each weekday morning leaving from Jesse Lee at 5:47, 5:57, 6:09, 6:38 and 6:43, and the last three buses of the morning leaving from the dog park lot at 7:01, 7:30 and 7:48.
Weekday evenings nine buses from Katonah Station arrive at Jesse Lee between 5:03 and 8:27.
Housatonic Area Regional Transit may be reached at hartransit.com or facebook.com/HARTransit.
One-way rides on the shuttle bus are $1.75, with students paying $1.40, and 85 cents for seniors and disabled passengers. One-way train tickets between New York and Katonah are $16.75, and $8.25 for seniors and disabled passengers.
A variety of discount packages for bus and train together are available to commuters by the week starting at $129.25) and the month for $402.
The selectmen voted unanimously to grant the tax abatement in December.