WARREN – It’s still unclear how the county will provide regular and permanent transit options to large swathes of Trumbull County residents. It’s something some local officials have said is necessary to spur economic growth in the region and ensure those without private transport options have a means of getting around.
The funded plans in place include on-demand and scheduled trips, primarily for the elderly and people with disabilities. The program is sustainable until 2022, but much of the funding comes from the federal government and will not be offered at such a high rate in the future because the funds have been accumulated over three periods, the administrator said. public transport Mike Salamone.
Limited funding for on-demand rides for the general public, around $ 49,000, will be used until exhaustion, Salamone said. Few of the general public have signed up for the service, Salamone said. It is not the type of service that a person can use every day to meet daily obligations like work. Races must be scheduled in advance.
In a meeting on Wednesday, Trumbull County Commissioners Niki Frenchko and Frank Fuda met with Girard Mayor James Melfi, Cortland Mayor Deidre Petrosky, Niles Mayor Steve Mientkiewcz, director of the security service of Warren Eddie Colbert and Hubbard Mayor Ben Kyle to discuss the needs of cities when coming in transit. Meetings with other communities are planned for the future.
Salamone said he and other officials working on transit issues will track the number of passengers using the on-demand system and report back to communities in six months.
Since WRTA’s extended fixed route service in Trumbull County has ended, there is no way to track the number of people who are not traveling in this part of the system.
Dean Harris, director of WRTA, said Wednesday that the Ohio Department of Transportation had provided funding of more than $ 500,000 to temporarily restart some roads in Warren. Harris said it will be a similar limited service to the one that just ended in the county but will only serve Warren. It won’t start until December and route maps will be released later this year, he said.
While WRTA has collected figures on how many people have taken the widened route during its state-funded pilot program, people will need to inform their mayors, commissioners, city council members, city administrators and other officials. if they want more public transport in their communities.
The general consensus of local officials was that they wanted to see a “menu” transit options to meet their particular needs and then work on a program that meets all of those needs and a way to fund it.
County commissioners took no action earlier this year to join WRTA. If they had, residents of the service area would vote on whether or not to approve the measure, along with a sales tax increase of 0.25%. The increase, an additional 0.25 cents per $ 100 spent, would have raised $ 6 million for transit in Trumbull County, providing fixed-route and on-demand services, employing approximately 40 people and adding buildings in Trumbull County. WRTA also presented contract options with the transit provider.
While Fuda argued that a $ 6 million system was not needed for the county, Frenchko argued that commissioners should let the public vote on whether they want the service and the tax. She said the option to join WRTA was not dead and people had called her to complain that the commissioners had not brought the issue to voters. Fuda said the matter could be put to a public vote, but not until more information is gathered and all options have been explored.
Mientkiewcz said he was not aware of any Niles residents calling his office or members of city council to lament the loss of service.
But others said fixed routes are vital for economic development, economic recovery and for some populations.
“We know, all of us around this table, that transportation is the cornerstone of job creation. We know that. So it’s not about “are we going to do it” or “are we not going to do it”. We need to. We cannot sit here in front of these cameras and tell people that we take economic development seriously when we are not tackling a cornerstone, which is public transport ”, said Colbert.
Colbert said he doesn’t understand why public transit is such “Fierce battle” when most agree that public transport is the key to development.
The goal should be to work together to “good size” a plan, he said.
“The big towns in Trumbull County all agree that a program needs to be put in place. It might not be $ 6 million, it might not be $ 3 million, it might be $ 8 million, who knows. But we all need to come together and let our residents know that we believe transportation is the key to continued economic development, not just for cities, but for the county as a whole, ” said Colbert.
Frenchko said the plan written by WRTA for Trumbull County targets areas other than Warren. If a sales tax increase on public transportation is not implemented, the county will likely need a senior property tax increase to continue paying for senior transportation after 2022. She said increasing public transit options would not only lead to job growth, but increased spending in the county.
Seniors aren’t the only ones who need rides, Frenchko said. Plans in place currently do not cover low-income people who may need regular services in other parts of the county, Petrosky added.
Melfi said the buses he sees running in Girard still have passengers and that he has seen an increase in the number of people using the option, which is free until the end of the year and could become so. Permanently.
Jennifer Durno, director of transportation for the Trumbull County Council for the Disabled, said a population of people with developmental disabilities are not getting the transit services they need. Without transportation, it is difficult for people with intellectual disabilities to integrate into the community.
Warren resident Karen McGaha has called on commissioners to allow people to vote to join WRTA. When she lived in Youngstown, she used the bus frequently and said it was the only option some people had for regular transit.
“It is better to have something than nothing at all, you just have to start with the fixed course …” McGaha said. “Having reliable and reliable transportation so people know there is something for them. “