Popular new lake tram route highlights transport changes on grounds

Dan Hontz, of Fredonia, New York, waits as passengers disembark from his tram on Monday, July 3, 2017. Hontz has been driving for Chautauqua Institution transportation for the past nine years. ERIN CLARK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Roy Fisher is in his third year as transportation supervisor on and around the grounds at Chautauqua Institution.

While he is generally satisfied with transportation safety issues on the grounds, he is well aware that the congested traffic patterns at the Institution can produce risky situations for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers of every kind of vehicle — from a power chair to an 18-wheel rig delivering food to local restaurants and the Athenaeum Hotel.

“We have an active safety training program for all of our drivers,” Fisher said. “They are all well experienced, and 25 of our 29 drivers this year are returning to Chautauqua. So they understand the tight turns, heavy pedestrian traffic on the roads and the occasionally surprising appearance in their driving mirrors of all sorts of two-, three- and four-wheel conveyances.”

Fisher has driven on the grounds for nine years. He has studied traffic patterns and potential risk areas. As a result, this year he has instituted two major changes Chautauquans should know about. First, he has added a lake tram service linking North Lake, Bestor Plaza and Chautauqua’s core area with the Hall of Philosophy and the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

“Our trams are popular, especially in nice weather,” Fisher said. “It only made sense to make the service more accessible.”

Carol Ramsey, left, and Sherra Babcock, right, ride the lake tram route on Monday, July 3. ERIN CLARK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Fisher said multicolored maps of all bus and tram routes are available on all buses. 

The other significant change involves the often-crowded bus stop in front of Smith Memorial Library.

“There was real potential trouble with that spot,” Fisher said. “Especially after concerts, but at many times during the day, lots of people wait for transportation there. In bad weather, they can get soaked. And the crowded brick walk is just ahead of where the buses stop. We saw a risk with too many people moving in too tight an area.”

Fisher sought and received approval to move the stop 50 feet toward the lake, to just beyond the intersection of the Clark Brick Walk and Miller, in front of the Hultquist Center.

“There are two big advantages to the move,” Fisher said. “First, the large covered porch at Hultquist provides shelter for waiting passengers from the rain. Secondly, the crowds moving along the brick walk are now behind the bus stop and we think we have eliminated a potential safety risk.”

Fisher issued a plea to all Chautauquans to observe care on Institution streets and walkways:

“I want to remind everyone that our buses in particular have poor sightlines due to their design,” he said, and drivers have reported that around 70 percent of bicyclists don’t observe stop signs, and many power chair operators are guilty of the same inattention.

“Anyone who has been on the grounds for even a couple of hours knows there are lots of accidents just waiting to happen,” he said. “We want to help avoid that, and want everyone’s help in doing so.”

He also asked for the public’s forbearance in case buses and trams, especially those serving Turner Community Center and Bestor Plaza, are running a bit late due to heavy use.

“We’re on a 20-minute interval schedule,” he said. “Please bear with us if we are running a bit behind on occasion.”

Tags : bestor plazaRoy Fishertram routetransportationTurner Community Center

The author John Ford

John Ford is in his ninth year with the Daily. He reports on general news, does feature reporting and writes the weekly Chautauqua Conversations column. A wire service reporter for United Press International prior to embarking on a career as a foreign service officer with the Department of State, he currently writes a regular column on American politics and foreign relations for one of the two principal daily newspapers in Nassau, Bahamas.