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After more than 20 years, Corning Museum of Glass ends its free shuttle service

Corning Museum of Glass free shuttle service at the welcome center and parking lot.
Corning Museum of Glass
Corning Museum of Glass free shuttle service at the welcome center and parking lot.

The Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG) has discontinued its free shuttle service. The shuttle connected tourists and visitors of the museum to the shops and restaurants in downtown Corning. Some business owners expressed concern about losing access to thousands of visitors.

The glass museum’s shuttle stopped operating on May 23. For decades, it was a free transportation service between the museum and Market Street in downtown Corning. It looped around the city from the visitors' welcome center in the parking lot, to the museum, and Market Street in downtown Corning. The shuttle operated 361 days per year.

The museum is 0.9 miles from Market Street and 0.4 miles from the welcome center and parking lot. Anyone who walks to Market Street from the museum’s parking lot would have to walk more than 2.5 miles roundtrip in order to get back to their vehicle. According to the 2020 census, the entire city of Corning is 3.08 square miles.

Bethany Hammond is the owner of Card Carrying Books and Gifts, an intersectional feminist bookstore on Market Street. She said she did not know the shuttle service was ending.

“We are the type of business who likes to be inclusive, and not having a shuttle is not really shouting inclusivity for people who need stuff like that,” said Hammond.

She is concerned about its impact on local businesses and the people who ride the shuttle.

Bethany Hammond, owner of Card Carrying Books and Gifts stands in front of her store on Market Street in downtown Corning.
Natalie Abruzzo
Bethany Hammond, owner of Card Carrying Books and Gifts stands in front of her store on Market Street in downtown Corning.

“For people who are differently abled or older, or even with little ones, it's going to be really difficult for people to get around town now,” she said.

To encourage tourists to shop locally this summer, Hammond said she is thinking about offering a 10 percent discount to patrons of her store, if they are wearing a Corning Museum of Glass sticker.

The shuttle was not just a convenience. Some people rely on transportation like buses and vans when a taxi or rideshare are not available—or equipped for accessibility. Parking a personal vehicle downtown can also be an added expense.

BJ Stasio of the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS) said people with disabilities need transportation options so they can participate in their communities.

“You never know when you're gonna wake up tomorrow and have a disability and need to take public transportation,” said Stasio. “So, it might not affect someone in that moment, but it will affect you someday, and it needs to be there if we all need it, not just a certain population, because we're all temporarily able-bodied.”

Beth Duane is the chief marketing and visitor experience officer for CMoG. She said less than 10 percent of its 300,000 annual visitors used the shuttle. Local residents rode it while they were out in the area as well. She said it became too costly to maintain but stopped short of providing exact numbers.

“It was substantial enough that we made that decision in a way to save on expenses,” said Duane. “We've tried for years- for over 20 years to maintain the free shuttle service. And this year, it became cost prohibitive for us to keep operating it.“

It is not clear how much the museum will save now that the shuttle is out of operation.

In 2022, tourism generated $177 million in Steuben County, according to a report by Empire State Development. The Steuben County Conference and Visitors Bureau said 56.7 percent of all county tourists visit the city of Corning.

The museum has no plans to reinstate the shuttle service for the foreseeable future.

Corning Incorporated is the museum’s top benefactor. Recently, the company has scaled back on its local facilities and workforce. In January, a company spokesperson told WSKG that revenues across Corning Inc.’s businesses were likely to continue to be lower than expected. It is not clear how much the company contributes annually to the museum and if that amount is affected by the company’s current economic situation.

Corning Incorporated is a sponsor of WSKG.

Updated: June 17, 2024 at 10:31 AM EDT
This article has been updated to reflect that parking a personal vehicle in downtown Corning can vary by option and include an added expense.