MASON COUNTY — Community leaders and Mason County residents recently met for an informational meeting regarding the initiative to bring a public transportation system to the county.
Representatives from Tri-River Transit were in attendance to discuss their public transit systems and Bill Robinson, executive director of West Virginia Department of Transportation Division of Public Transit, was also in attendance to discuss finances of the initiative.
Paula Smith, executive director of Tri-River Transit, explained the company is currently serving four counties in West Virginia including Boone, Lincoln, Logan, and Wayne. This public transportation system is designed for everyone including residents, senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, children, and visitors to the county. The buses for Tri-River Transit have designated bus stops as well as stop times, but also work as a “flag fare” operation, where individuals can flag the bus down to stop while its on route. The buses are handicap accessible and can be used for non-emergency transportation for trips to the hospital.
The yearly cost for the system was broken down by Smith and Robinson, three days a week, 10-12 hours a day, would be $80,000 a year; 5 days a week, 10-12 hours a day, would be between $120-125,000.
Robinson explained federal dollars from the state can pay half of the cost, while the county covers the remainder. Dwight Coburn, Southwestern Community Action Council, Inc. executive director, offered to pay at least $10,000 towards the first year’s payment to get the system started.
The proposed route for the bus will cover from New Haven to Ashton. A few other routes discussed would be one to Gallipolis, Ohio as well as two trips a day to Huntington. The city leaders will be responsible on making the designated routes. Smith explained with the routes she has now, buses are typically in for the night by 5:30—6 p.m., one extra long route ends at 8 p.m.
Smith explained the bus schedule will be the exact same each week. Bus fare varies, one way bus fare is $1 each time a passenger boards the bus, additional fare of $1 is charged for every zone line crossed, and one way fare for a route deviation service is $2 each time a passenger boards the bus. Tri-River Transit employees can work with certain organizations in communities to offer special ticket options such as the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).
Tri-River Transit employees will depend on the city leaders to tell those within the county about the public transportation system. Robinson commented public transportation systems are frequented by three vulnerable populations in the community including the economically disadvantaged, the chronically ill, and the elderly.
The earliest the public transportation could start in the county is July 1 explained Smith and the county leaders must inform Tri-River Transit employees within 90 days of when they wish for the system to start. The first week the buses are in operation will be free, so residents can get a feel of the public transportation system. During start up, Tri-River Transit employees will use promotional techniques as well to help spread the word and entice people in the county to use the transit system.
Smith shared two-three individuals from Mason County will be hired to work for Tri-River Transit if possible.
Further meetings and discussions will be held regarding this initiative as all of the county’s leaders must take part in this decision.
Some information from the Tri-River Transit brochure was used in this article.
Erin Perkins is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.