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  • 4 Mar 2024 1:24 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Western Kenosha County Transit today announced a refresh of its existing public transportation services for 2024.

    This rejuvenation introduces LINK Western Kenosha Transportation, a revitalized service emphasizing 'Your Route to a Better Rural Journey.'

    This update, which includes visual updates to vehicles and communication, is not the introduction of a new service but a comprehensive refresh of the existing one. Organizers said it aims to address and change the stigma some community members hold toward public transit.

    The initiative to refresh the service stems from extensive community engagement in the fall of 2023. Public hearings and a survey conducted across Western Kenosha County, with participation from over 400 residents, have been instrumental in shaping the refreshed direction of LINK, said Kenosha County Executive Samantha Kerkman.

    “It was very important to us to engage the community in this process,” Kerkman said. “The survey played a crucial role in understanding the needs and preferences of our community members. We truly appreciate the public’s input.”

    A standout feature of LINK is its door-to-door service. Residents can schedule a pickup from their homes and be taken directly to their destinations.

    “This personalized approach ensures convenience and accessibility for all passengers”, Kerkman said.

    Customers can call 1-888-203-3498 in advance, to arrange a trip.

    “The service is tailored to be both affordable and inclusive, while offering extensive travel options,” Heather Vanoss, Elder & Disability Services Manager said. Fares are competitively priced at $5 per one-way trip for the general public, $3 per one-way trip for older adults and persons with disabilities, and $1 per one-way trip to a Nutrition Senior Dining Site. Western Transit's service area focuses on Kenosha County, particularly areas west of I-94, ensuring coverage for a significant portion of the county's residents.

    This enhanced service is provided through a partnership between Kenosha Achievement Center and Kenosha County. All vehicles in the LINK fleet are equipped with lifts and wheelchair tie-downs, ensuring accessibility for passengers with mobility needs. Additionally, drivers are trained to assist with boarding and disembarking upon request.

    Further enhancing the commuter experience, LINK is tailored for stress-free and relaxing commutes.

    The service is specifically designed to provide a relaxing environment, particularly during peak hours. This feature enables passengers to engage in leisure activities like reading, relaxing, or simply enjoying the scenic views, transforming their daily commute into a more enjoyable part of their day.

    In terms of reliability, LINK is fully equipped to handle all weather conditions. Its capability to navigate challenging rural road conditions ensures dependable and safe transportation regardless of the weather. This aspect of the service offers peace of mind to passengers, knowing that their journey will be safe and uninterrupted.

    LINK also solves parking woes. With this service, passengers no longer need to concern themselves with finding parking spots, especially in crowded destinations or inclement weather. This benefit is particularly valuable in areas where parking is limited, making LINK a convenient option for daily commutes and visits to large medical facilities.

    Lastly, LINK demonstrates a strong commitment to environmental stewardship. By opting for LINK over personal vehicles, passengers contribute to reducing carbon emissions and preserving the natural beauty of Kenosha County's rural landscapes. This aspect of the service aligns with broader environmental goals and reflects a growing public interest in sustainable transportation options.

    “LINK’s economical fares allow travelers to journey farther while spending less and significantly reducing the financial burden typically associated with driving which supports the economic well-being of the community. As LINK launches a refreshed debut in 2024, Western Kenosha County Transit invites the community to embrace this service, promising a more connected, sustainable, and enjoyable travel experience,” said Vanoss.

    Full article here.

  • 1 Mar 2024 12:41 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    ‘Transit Equity Days’ is a week-long celebration in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and throughout the state with the “official” Transit Equity Day occurring on Feb. 4—the same day that Rosa Parks, an icon of transit equity and the “mother of the Civil Rights Movement”, was born 111 years ago. 

    Although many are familiar with the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s, transit equity is a niche of the movement that may be less known by the general public. In 1841, the transit equity movement began when Frederick Douglass and his friend, James N. Buffum entered a train car designed for white passengers only. When the conductor ordered Douglass and Buffum to leave, they refused. This action led to similar ones on the Eastern Railroad. 

    With widespread action from people like Douglass and Buffum, the United States (U.S.) Congress eventually granted equal rights to people of color in public accommodations by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1875. However, in 1883, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned these equal rights declaring them as unconstitutional and unauthorized by the 13th and 14th Amendments in the U.S. Constitution. 

    On May 18, 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court established the “separate-but-equal” doctrine from the Plessy v Ferguson case. This new law made racial segregation constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment. 

    Because of the new separate-but-equal doctrine, inequalities like the ones experienced by Douglass and Buffum persisted. In Dec. 1955 Rosa Parks was arrested after refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her action led to the 381-day Montgomery bus boycott

    Before her arrest, Parks was not the only Black person who refused to give up their seat to a white person. On March 2, 1955, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested for her refusal to give up her seat on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Colvin went on to be a witness in Browder v Gayle, the court case that eventually overturned racial segregation on public transportation. 

    Despite the ruling in Browder v Gayle, racial segregation continued to occur in the public transportation sector. In 1958, a Black law student was arrested for trespassing on the grounds of a restaurant within a train terminal. This arrest led to the Boynton v. Virginia case where the U.S. Supreme Court held that such segregation “violated the Interstate Commerce Act, which broadly forbade discrimination in interstate passenger transportation.” (Labor Network For Sustainability

    Now, the transit equity movement strives to provide “the same access to affordable and reliable transportation to everyone.” (U.S. Department of Transportation). In 2024, transit equity is viewed as an issue that intersects with other social movements like accessibility, environmental justice, economic justice and racial justice…just to name a few. 

    The utilization of public transit has multiple environmental benefits, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon dioxide (CO2). According to the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), “approximately 85 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector are related to the surface transportation system.” 

    If a person switched to public transportation from their 20-mile-commuting car, they could reduce their CO2 emissions by 20 pounds per day, or more than 48,000 pounds per year. This decrease in CO2 emissions would also decrease air pollution which disproportionately affects nonwhite populations, especially Black communities. 

    There are also economic benefits related to transit equity. According to inequality.org, “Public transit investments create huge economic ripple effects. The American Public Transportation Association estimates that every $1 invested generates $5 in economic returns. Better funding and (crucially) more ridership means more jobs and increased commercial activity.” 

    Finally, transit equity fosters accessibility allowing all people to have their needs met. According to Around the Sound, the “right to movement” is a human right, which means that any person with disabilities should have the ability to access every location of their liking. 

    Speaking upon the benefit of public transit, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Sustainability Program Manager, Andrew Ericson said: 

    “Transit Equity Days is such an important event that’s held in La Crosse and around the nation. Transit is a backbone resource for our community, and is an essential service. Accessibility to public transportation, or simply having more than one feasible option to get from point A to point B, benefits us all. Building a robust transportation system that meets the needs of its many different users, will no doubt save us all money, build better and more resilient communities and prevent harmful impacts to our environment.”

    UWL Student Association (SA) Sustainability Director, Grace Lopez-Johnson also commented on the benefits of public transit. She said: 

    “Transit equity is vital in creating a more sustainable future that is accessible to all people. Having safe and reliable public transportation systems can help to remove barriers that prevent people from easily commuting to their workplace, school or appointments; especially for people like students who may not have access to a personal vehicle. Utilizing public transportation instead of relying on cars is beneficial for the health of the environment and is key in creating a socialized and thriving community.”

    Full article here!

  • 22 Feb 2024 1:57 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) is looking to expand its bus rapid transit (BRT) service – and get the public involved in the process.

    A news release says the community is invited to learn more about the proposed CONNECT 2 BRT route at virtual or in-person meetings which will be held on Feb. 27, 28, and 29.

    Officials say the new North-South BRT will "enhance service along one of MCTS's top five busiest routes, the PurpleLine. The proposed route is twice as long as CONNECT 1 and involves five different municipalities across the county."

    MCTS wants to get feedback about CONNECT 2. You are invited to share input on the features such as bus-only lanes, station locations and more at the following open houses:

    South Open House

    • Tuesday, Feb. 27 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
    • Wilson Senior Center, 2601 W. Howard Avenue, Milwaukee
    • Open-house style; stop by anytime
    • Take the PurpleLine to 27th Street and Howard or parking is available

    Virtual Meeting

    North Open House

    • Thursday, Feb. 29 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
    • Century City Tower, 4201 N. 27th Street, Milwaukee
    • Open-house style; stop by anytime
    • Take the PurpleLine to 27th Street and Hope or parking is available
    Spanish-speaking translators will be available at each open house, and the locations for each are ADA accessible. Visit mkenorthsouth.com for more information.

    Read more here.

  • 19 Feb 2024 9:16 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Wisconsin Avenue, Downtown Milwaukee, Public TransitAdvocates for public transit in Wisconsin gathered in Oshkosh and Madison on Monday asking for investments in safe and reliable transportation systems.

    The local events were in coordination with a national day of action organized for Transit Equity Day by the Labor Network for Sustainability. The event is held annually on or around civil rights activist Rosa Parks’ birthday on Feb. 4.

    Demonstrators met at a closed bus stop on University Avenue in downtown Madison calling for the city to adequately support local buses as the rapid transit system expands.

    The Transit Network Redesign project, implemented last summer, expanded access to service, according to Tom Lynch, Madison Transportation Director. The project included a Bus Rapid Transit system, set to be fully operational in the fall of 2024.

    To make the new system more efficient, some bus stops along one route have closed, worrying transit advocates.

    “BRT service should enhance rather than be at the expense of local routes,” Wisconsin Transit Riders Alliance said in a statement.

    Advocates across the state ask for investments in public transportation

    Susan De Vos, secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin Transit Riders Alliance, helped organize the demonstration in Madison. She is concerned that as stops are spaced further apart in the new rapid system, people with mobility issues will have to travel further to board the bus.

    “Public transit is a civil right that is supposed to serve everyone,” De Vos said.

    The alliance also asked for more public funding for transit projects, more access for people with disabilities and better working conditions for people in transit-related jobs.

    A poster reading “Thank you drivers” was available for bus riders to sign as a symbol of appreciation at the Downtown Transit Center in Oshkosh on Monday.

    Deb Martin hosted the Oshkosh event as a part of Transit Equity Day to gather input from riders and show appreciation for drivers. Martin said she is advocating for expanded routes and hours, especially to accommodate third-shift workers. Right now, buses run from 6:15 a.m. until 6:45 p.m. six days a week.

    “Transportation is a root cause of some of the poverty and the need in our state and really everywhere,” Martin said. “If they can have better transportation, they could improve the job they go to.”

    The city of La Crosse celebrated Transit Equity Day with events throughout the last week in January including free fares on the La Crosse Municipal Transit Utility.

    Expanding public transit could lower carbon emissions

    The Sierra Club joined the Labor Network for Sustainability and other partners on Monday to advocate for public transportation.

    Cassie Steiner, senior campaign coordinator with Sierra Club- Wisconsin Chapter, said transportation has a “huge impact” on climate, land use and equity.

    “Our transportation priorities have been a mess in Wisconsin for quite a long time,” they said.

    Steiner would like to see money allocated away from highway expansion projects and towards public transportation projects.

    “Expanding transit in many places isn’t even a thought. It’s, how do we keep transit running? So, our transit systems are in really dire shape in the state, and readjusting where we’re putting funding can make a huge difference,” Steiner said.

    Her hope is that increased public transportation will benefit those who rely on it and also encourage new people to try it.

    Martin said she hopes public transportation advocacy continues year-round.

    “At least we have one day that we especially set aside and say ‘thank you’ as we work to make improvements the rest of the year,” Martin said.

    Read the full story here!

  • 12 Feb 2024 10:07 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – February 4th is recognized as Transit Equity Day. First News at Nine’s Dashal Mentzel explains how the city of La Crosse is stretching its appreciation into a Week.

    The city of La Crosse is celebrating Transit Equity Days from January 29th to February 4th. State Representative Jill Billings says public transportation has helped her and many others get where they need to go, “I think it’s such an important part of our community and our economy. When people come to cities like La Crosse, that’s one thing they look for often is do you have a decent transit system. People are looking for that.”

    The city introduced The Regional Transit Development Plan in 2021 and Billings appreciates the commitment by the city to help those who ride public transit, “I know the budget was tight this year, but they made sure that public transit was a priority. When you look around on this beautiful bus station that we have, I remember the old days when everybody stood out at the corners and the wind at the post office to transfer buses.”

    Elizabeth Fryseth is legally blind. Riding public transit has helped her get around town and she encourages everyone to do the same, “Ride the bus, give it a shot just once, if not twice, because it could change your life. It’s an easy way. It’s affordable. Unlike Uber or Lyft. It’s also easier to get a hold of than a taxi service.”

    Fellow advocate, Obbie King, says public transit is a great way to meet new people, “People get together, people see each other. When you’re in cars, it’s just one person per car. All the people relate to the pair of headlights that’s coming towards them or the pair of taillights that’s in front of them. They don’t see the person that’s attached to that vehicle. When you’re relating to each other, person to person, it’s a lot friendlier way to travel. You humanize each other.”

    Today is only the beginning of a weeklong recognition of public transit.

    In La Crosse, Dashal Mentzel, First News at Nine.

    As part of the weeklong event, La Crosse Area Transit Advocates will be hosting rides with local elected city, county, and state leaders. Fares will also be free on the La Crosse Municipal Transit, now until Sunday, February 5th.

    Read the full article here.

  • 8 Feb 2024 9:31 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Milwaukee officials have unveiled a series of “traffic calming” projects for 2024 in an effort to reduce reckless driving across the city. 

    The 45 projects, announced Tuesday by the Milwaukee Department of Public Works, include raised crosswalks, curb extensions or bump-outs and “full reconstruction projects” on certain streets. They also include several more protected bike lanes across the city. 

    Reckless driving has plagued the city for years, but city engineer Kevin Muhs said he believes the work will help make the streets safer for everyone. 

    “We want everyone to feel safe and enjoy our streets, whether they’re walking, biking, taking transit or driving,” Muhs said during a press conference Tuesday. 

    The projects are dispersed throughout Milwaukee and are funded by the city, through state and federal grants and programs, and through federal pandemic relief aid. 

    Officials say concrete bump-outs near intersections can help reduce the number of vehicles passing on the right and help protect pedestrians. Work also includes engineering projects like narrowing some streets to one lane, and raised crosswalks and curb extensions near several schools.

    Michael Anderson, the youth programs manager for Wisconsin Bike Fed, said that’s a step in the right direction. Anderson said reckless driving near and around schools is something the city has been dealing with for years.

    “We’ve got a long way to go to improving child mobility in this city — this is a huge start,” Anderson said. 

    “Our students should be able to walk and bike to school,” Anderson added. “Making sure that our neighborhoods are built in a way that facilitates youth travel is really important.” 

    City officials have called reckless driving a “crisis” in the community and have taken a number of steps to tackle the problem. Many believe engineering, education and enforcement are the main ways to address the issue.

    “We (common council) felt very strongly, to change people’s behavior, certainly enforcement and accountability and education are important, but sometimes you need to physically change the structure of the streets to force people to be better drivers,” Milwaukee Alder Michael Murphy said at the press conference. 

    One example of the work the city is doing is along a stretch of the busy Highland Boulevard.

    Muhs said last year, the city reduced the number of driving lanes to one in each direction and added concrete bike lanes along a portion of the street. The city is waiting for construction to be complete to collect data on how effective the changes have been, but Muhs said he believes the work has led to safer conditions for residents.

    “We know from resident feedback that it has slowed excessive driving speeds, reduced reckless driving and provided a safer environment for people walking and biking in this area,” Muhs said.

    The number of pedestrian fatalities in Milwaukee was significantly higher than in any other county across the state last year, at 21 deaths, according to preliminary data from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

    A 2023 Milwaukee crash analysis also found that vulnerable street users — which include pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists — are “disproportionately likely to be killed or seriously injured when a crash occurs.” The highest concentration of injuries occur in Milwaukee in posted speed limit zones of 30 to 35 mph, likely due to high speeds and a high number of users.

    “We see it with our own eyes. We experience it when we ourselves are on the roads,” Milwaukee Alder Bob Bauman said about the issue. “We’ve been pushing for these changes for a long time, the engineering takes time.” 

    To keep bicycle riders safe, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson announced a goal last year of building 50 miles of protected bike lanes by 2026. Bauman said he believes the protected bike lanes will encourage more people to travel by bike across the city. 

    “Because right now, on  a lot of our streets, it’s actually not very safe to be riding a bicycle,” Bauman said. 

    Protected bike lanes include physical dividers to separate bikers from pedestrians and vehicles. A 2013 study found they reduce bike-related intersection injuries by about 75 percent, compared to comparable crossings without infrastructure. 

    “It’s really about building an all ages and abilities network,” Anderson said about the bike lanes.

    Madison will also implement a number of traffic calming projects this year. The city plans to use a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Safe Streets and Roads for All program to make improvements at 21 intersections near transit stops and six shared-use path crossings.

    The city will use the federal money to build a sidewalk and path along a portion of a busy highway on E. Washington Ave.

    Madison has also been working on improving street lighting, adding curb extensions and increasing flashing lights to remind people when they’re speeding.

    Read the full article here.

  • 1 Feb 2024 4:14 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    By Bridget Dean 

    bdean@conleynet.com 262-513-2644 

    WAUKESHA — Don Jans first passed a bus driver test nearly 52 years ago. He was given a school bus route and hit the road. He has remained in the transit industry since and will be retiring on Feb. 9 after an impressive career. 

    “I always said I did every aspect of the business except turn a wrench,” Jans joked. “I’ve never been mechanically inclined.” 

    His career took him from driving the buses to training new drivers, overseeing safety operations at a state level and working with professionals across the country. 

    His career began in June of 1972. While Jans was working on his master’s degree in criminology and sociology, he got his first job in the industry as a driver at Wisconsin Coachlines and Dairyland Buses. 

    “I grew up on a farm, and I’ve driven trucks, and I’ve driven tractors ... I took the school bus out. (The hiring manager) said ‘oh you’re fine,’” Jans said. One driving test later, Jans was hired and started working. He said bus drivers now have up to six weeks of training before they hit the road alone. 

    “I wanted to be a professor. But, once I started in the transportation field, working with everyone and traveling, I decided to change; I enjoyed it,” said Jans. “It was not uncommon at all to see teachers that had switched over and were working for different companies ... I thought, well, I’m just one of the numbers.” 

    He drove routes from Waukesha and Kenosha to Milwaukee and drove for charters and tours. He was a driver for seven years, all the while working his way up to supervisor and eventually president of the company. 

    “I drove all over the United States,” Jans said. “It was a fantastic way to see the country.”

    From driver to trainer 

    From there, Jans became a bus driver trainer. 

    “I started training and all of the sudden I wasn’t doing much driving. I was spending full time training people,” he said. “I think the relationship was (that) I wanted to be a teacher, so it was coming across very easily.” 

    In 1989, he left Wisconsin Coach Lines to become the general manager of Waukesha Metro Transit until 2007. 

    That year, the Metro’s liability insurance carrier, Transit Mutual, created a full-time safety director role and sought Jans to fill it. At the same time, he became region manager for the Waukesha Metro’s management company, Professional Transit Management, and spent much time driving across Wisconsin to work with transit system teams. 

    “I did a lot of work with the American Public Transit Association and some of their safety committees. The nice thing was, I met a lot of very talented people across the country, and probably the most rewarding was when people come back and say I helped them in their career to advance,” Jans said. 

    Back to Waukesha Metro 

    In 2013, he returned to work for Waukesha Metro Transit. He never wanted to leave his home in Waukesha County, not even for a promotion. 

    “I wanted to come back and spend another 10 years. I was looking forward to that. I enjoyed the time I was the safety director, but there again I spent a lot of time on the road,” Jans said. “I’m tired of driving.” 

    He’s now the Waukesha Metro Transit compliance specialist. Jans handles driver payroll, compliance issues, labor negotiations and statistical reporting. He has also been training other employees for his role. Because Waukesha Metro receives federal grants, the organization receives a review every three years. 

    “We’re very proud of the fact that the last two tri-annual reviews we had were zero findings. That’s highly unusual. We’re in the process of preparing for the 2024 tri-annual review. I expect it’s going to be very similar,” Jans said. “The people that drive the buses have a really hard job, and I don’t think people realize.” 

    Jans’s goal was to work 50 years in the transit industry, although his coworkers at Waukesha Metro Transit convinced him to work one more year into 2024. He’s looking forward to spending time around his home and yard in Mukwonago, where his family lives with many animals. 

    “When I grew up, I always worked a couple of jobs at a time,” he said. “I guess I’m kind of a workaholic.” By choice, he said he spends 45-50 hours in the office a week. 

    “I enjoyed working with the people. That will be the biggest adjustment for me, is not seeing everybody on a daily basis and missing that interaction ... I kind of look at them as family,” he said. “I’m lucky enough that I’ve liked what I’ve done.” 

    Waukesha Metro team members with one of the Metro buses. Left to right, standing, Jason Zachow, Kari Bloedow, Brian Engelking, Linda Strike, Arnie Boivin, Don Jans. Kneeling left to right, Jon Hine and Mark Gurski. 

    Courtesy of Waukesha Metro Transit 

    Don Jans at the Transit Center opening on Oct. 2, 2004 when he was the Waukesha Metro Transit general manager. 

    Courtesy of Waukesha Metro Transit

    Copyright © 2024 Conley Group. All rights reserved 1/27/2024

  • 22 Jan 2024 10:47 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A $4 million federal grant to improve traffic safety has been awarded for the city of Milwaukee.

    The city's Department of Public Works (DPW) said in a news release, the Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) program funds initiatives to prevent traffic deaths and serious injuries.

    DPW says there is also a $1 million local match requirement for this grant that the city will contribute.

    “Roadway safety is a top priority, and I am grateful to President Joe Biden’s administration for this multi-million dollar grant to assist our efforts,” Mayor Cavalier Johnson said. “We are making significant changes to our streets so that pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobile occupants are safer. This federal Safe Streets grant will advance our work.”

    The DPW says the grant will be used by the city for a project named "Safe, Welcoming, and Enjoyable Streets to Grow Milwaukee."

    Milwaukee will incorporate the funding and develop a plan. The city will conduct demonstration activities including street design corrections, neighborhood-driven traffic calming, innovative bike infrastructure, and transit improvements using temporary materials such as jersey barriers, modular bus boarding islands, rubber speed humps, and planters.

    “The City of Milwaukee is the state’s largest city, and cultural and economic hub,” said Department of Public Works Commissioner Jerrel Kruschke. “This grant will help the City further it’s mission to make it safe and convenient for people to walk, bike, take transit, be active and enjoy our streets and public spaces.”

    Milwaukee is one of eight Wisconsin communities to receive SS4A program funds.

    Find the full article here.

  • 18 Jan 2024 10:32 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Metro Transit bus

    MADISON (WKOW) -- Wisconsin is investing in helping seniors and people with disabilities get around on public transportation, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation announced.

    $5.2 million is being awarded to public and private non-profit agencies across the state that focus on mobility management, operating assistance and vehicle purchase.

    WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson said a good transportation system serves everyone and a small-town agency "that can add a couple of minivans" can make a big difference.

    Since the mid-1970s, the Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Program has bought more than 2,200 vehicle to help seniors and people with disabilities get around.

    The funds will go to the cities of Milwaukee, Madison, Appleton and Green Bay, which will then distribute the funds in their area.

    Find the article here!

  • 4 Jan 2024 10:00 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    The Richland County Transit board is looking over the next 10 years to provide better workforce mobility through extended hours and weekend service, more convenient and reliable service with shorter wait and transfer times, and better connectivity to Mansfield including better access in Ontario and new connections in Lexington and Madison. 

    Jean Taddie, transit development manager for Richland County Regional Planning, and Christy Campoll, project manager with the transit consulting firm of RLS and Associates Inc. of Dayton, outlined the latest 10-year plan during the Richland County Commissioners regular meeting on Tuesday.

    Campoll told the board that one of the main unmet needs identified during the year-long planning process was better service for people using RCT to get to work, particularly to the area of the Mansfield Industrial Park. “Right now it’s not possible to use RCT to get to work to a second or third-shift or any shift that has any weekend hours,” she said.

    Campoll said other needs include service to the U.S. 42 business corridor in Madison Township to help people who go to the library, Madison High School and the weekly stay hotels, and for the Ohio State University at Mansfield students who want better access to the Lexington-Springmill Road business corridor. A related finding is the need to reduce the wait times on fixed routes from 60 minutes to 30 minutes, particularly for riders who use multiple routes to get to places.

    Campoll said the data gathering included market and demand analysis, operation and financial analyses of RCT, input from focus groups, and oversight committee meetings. More than half of the data gathering involved a public survey, followed by on-board surveys, a local employer survey and stakeholder interviews.

    Campoll said some improvement strategies in progress include improved access to destinations and efficiency, transition from flag-down stops to a fixed bus stop system, adding same day service to Dial-A-Ride, an upgrade to fixed route software, account-based fare payment for Dial-A-Ride, expanded contract transportation service and developing funding partnerships and secure new government support. Officials also recently signed a contract with ETA Transit for new fixed route software.

    “That would link not only with our own passenger app but also Google maps, Apple maps and Transit app and will provide efficiencies on the back end as well,” Taddie said. “We’ll be adding internal efficiencies (for data compiling and reporting) as well as better passenger access.”

    Mid-plan strategies include adding on-demand zones in east Mansfield, Lexington and Bellville, pending new funding partnerships, conducting marketing and outreach for possible demand response services in new areas, and making a decision in 2029 on a long-term operating mode. Long-term alternatives include keeping the current network with new on-demand services, increased route frequency with new on-demand services, a “spine network’ with increased on-demand or 100% on-demand/demand response service using smaller mini buses or vans.

    Annual operating cost estimates for the current service and long-term alternative services range from $3.6 million for maintaining the status quo to $9.3 million to increase route frequency with about 63% of the figures covered by federal funds. The increased frequency proposal is projected to increase ridership 128% over the estimated 2023 annual ridership of 140,447.

    Campoll says any new services over the next six years will be added as funding allows, noting that the plan gives Taddie the opportunity to put prices on the options so the transit board can prioritize them. She said officials will be looking at a number of sources for the additional operating funds including new federal programs, current program partners, and agencies that have untapped funds for transportation 

    “We want to point out that even if we keep the system status quo and implement none of the strategies in the plan, RCT will still need more local match funding beyond what it receives today,” Campoll said. “We believe this plan provides a road map for the community to come together and build a stronger transit system.”

    Taddie pointed out that in addition to operating dollars, transit officials will be looking to the federal government to pay for new vehicles and repairs to a roof at the RCT facility.

    Could a tax levy be considered in the future?

    Officials were asked if there is any discussion about authorizing or putting a tax levy on the ballot for dedicated funding for RCT current and future services. 

    County Administrator Andrew Keller said that while the commissioners are the taxing authority for the county, that issue has not been addressed. Taddie noted that RCT needs $1.4 million per year in addition to the $900,000 that comes from the county general fund to maintain the status quo and that a levy would provide funding on a more sustainable basis.

    “I don’t see a levy on the ballot in 2024 but the conversations are worth having of what kind of sustainability we want to have for our transportation system and what will our county look like with Intel and being a supply chain for Intel and some of the big developments in Ohio,” Taddie said.

    Intel has announced a $20 billion investment to build chip-manufacturing plants near Columbus.

    Commissioners hold auction for farm land rental at Dayspring

    In other business Tuesday, commissioners held an auction to rent 109.5 acres of farm land at Dayspring, the county’s assisted living facility. John McCarron was the winning bidder at $265 per acre for a three-year contract with two one-year renewal options.

    The contract that expires at the end of this year is $195 per acre.  The going agricultural lease rate is between $220 and $290 per acre.

    The board also approved a $44,500 change order for the project to remodel the L2 level of the courthouse into space for the Clerk of Courts and approved contracts with two firms for master plan examiner services for the Building Department.

    Read the full article here.

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