Public transportation expansion

Photo by Michele Newbanks Marietta resident Kim Loar prepares to board the CABL bus at the Washington County Courthouse Tuesday afternoon.

Funds were recently requested through the Ohio Department of Transportation which could greatly impact the transit service in Washington County.

Dawn Rauch, director of planning and development with Washington-Morgan Community Action, recently met with the Washington County Commission to discuss the allocations of the $625,000 in funding the organization is requesting.

If awarded, the funding would not be available until the end of the year, Rauch noted.

“Transportation access is extremely limited in Washington County,” Rauch said. “We hope, if it’s funded, it will be able to give them more options.”

The $625,000 would include the current bus service, plus expansion services.

Part of the funding would expand the hours the current Community Action Bus Line (CABL) buses run through Marietta. No routes will be added, but the buses would run longer during the day.

“It would expand the fixed route service to 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturdays,” she said. “If that is funded, it will start immediately at the beginning of 2020, since we already have the vehicles for that service.”

Current hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

“Having buses operate longer on Saturday would be helpful,” said Commission President David White.

The second part of the funding would go toward two new smaller buses which would not require drivers with a CDL.

“Currently part of our fleet requires CDL and we’ve struggled to find drivers with their CDLs,” Rauch explained. “We’re replacing the larger capacity buses with smaller buses that do not require CDL. We’re replacing two vehicles with the project application we’re submitting.”

If funding goes through, the larger buses will be sold and the smaller buses will be purchased at $87,000 apiece, she said. The smaller buses will hold 12 passengers and two wheelchairs.

“Our goal is to eventually get away from all CDL vehicles,” Rauch told the commission.

Along with expanded hours, she said they hope signage will be added to make it easier to know where the bus routes are.

“The city is paying for CABL route signage along the routes, so you’re going to start seeing along all the routes. The CABL signs are color-coded to the routes so people know where the route travels and where they can get on the buses,” Rauch said.

White said the signs are a long time coming.

“Just as a point of information, this is something I’ve been pushing for since I was on city council 12 years ago,” he said. “One of the common complaints from people is that they don’t know where these routes are. There is literature that has the routes mapped, but people still don’t know where the bus stops are and the answer is, you can get picked up on any corner along the route, but they’re not marked. So if we can get just some simple color-coding, like most cities use that tells people where these routes are, they can stand at the right corner and wave the bus down.”

Rauch said $750 was put in the city’s CDBG budget for transit marketing, so they are contributing $750 toward the signs.

Rauch said the third part of the funding would go for transportation to serve outlying areas in Washington County.

“The state has additional funding in the next bi-annual budget, so they have asked transit agencies to ‘pie in the sky,’ what service expansions do you see needs for, what do you want to do?” Rauch explained.

As part of their ‘pie in the sky’ wishes, Community Action is asking for funding to purchase two mini-vans that will travel to areas outside of Marietta to pick up county residents.

“We’ve never had service to other parts of the county that’s not already served by fixed routes,” Rauch said. “We go to Belpre one day a week. We go to (New Matamoras) one day a week. So we’re proposing to offer demand-response service to the rest of the county. Demand-response is a call-in, next-day service.”

CABl rider Kim Loar, 59, of Marietta, said she thought the ideas the ideas were all positive ways that could help those around the city and county.

“It sounds like a good idea,” she said before boarding a bus to head home on Tuesday. “If they go out to Waterford or Beverly to pick someone up, they would just have to let them know when they would be taken home.”

Rauch said they hope to cover all of the county, so the vans may visit certain sections of the county on certain days.

“There may be certain zones, but it hasn’t been determined yet,” she added. “Our hope would be to cover the underserved portions of the county. This would be public transportation, so there is no trip destination requirement, so it would take them anywhere they need to go.”

The mini-vans are expected to cost around $38,000 each and could carry four passengers and two wheelchairs.

“The vehicles are purchased on the state term contracts, so once the state issues the purchase orders, the vendors have 180 days to deliver, so we could be looking at fall,” Rauch said of when the expanded service could begin.

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

Local public transportation routes

• Funds have been requested through ODOT to replace two buses and add two mini-vans.

• Fixed route hours could be expanded through the week.

• Mini-vans would be used for next-day service throughout the county.

Source: Dawn Rauch.