Transportation plan updated

By Patricia Ann Speelman -

SIDNEY — In compliance with Ohio Department of Transportation filing requirements, the Shelby County Transportation Planning Committee met, Thursday, Oct. 25, to review and update the county’s public transportation plan.

ODOT approved the four-year plan in December 2017 and requests progress updates annually.

Michelle Caserta, mobility manager of Catholic Social Services and chairwoman of the committee, reviewed the goals, strategies and timeline set forth in the orginal plan and what has been done so far to meet the goals:

Goal 1: Education

• By the end of 2018 and then ongoing, the committee and other leaders will educate the residents of Shelby County regarding public and coordinated transportation so that they can make informed decisions about transportation options here.

Strategies call for Shelby Public Transit personnel and the mobility manager to make presentations to social and civic groups, local industries and organizations; place articles in the Sidney Daily News; distribute Shelby Public Transit brochures throughout the county; conduct focus group meetings to get feedback; showcase transit vehicles at community events and promote the RideLink call center.

In addition, the Shelby Public Transit will implement an annual “Try the Transit Month,” during which fares will be reduced, and social media will be used to inform the public about transportation opportunities and issues.

Caserta reported that one presentation has been made to date. It was to a meeting of the Public Employees Retirees group; there have been several articles in the newspaper; and a focus group session was completed in September.

Following discussion by the committee, it was decided to move the “Try the Transit” event to 2019 because, currently, Shelby Public Transit is short of employees. It needs five more drivers than it has on staff.

“That’s not just here. It’s a statewide — a nationwide — problem,” said Ron Schalow, Shelby Public Transit director.

The committee also decided to add transportation information to existing area Facebook pages, rather to create and maintain one of its own.

Goal 2: Expand services

• By the end of 2020 and then ongoing, Shelby Public Transit, the mobility manager and Fresenius Medical Care will expand current transportation services in the county to meet public needs by filling gaps for people who need transportation during peak, early morning and evening hours, and on weekends and holidays.

To do so, they will create a survey to identify the need for expanded hours, track unmet needs, expand the Shelby Public Transit fleet and hire additional drivers if such a need is identified.

Schalow noted that the public transit system extended its operating hours this year. In the past, people could get rides on the system, Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. During 2018, the hours were increased so that the system operates now from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. each weekday.

A survey that was available to the public was completed by more than 400 clients of Shelby County Job and Family Services agency, providing statistics on where transportation gaps exist.

Plans call for additional surveys to be designed to gather information on specific topics, targeted at specific populations.

Goal 3: Support employment

• By the end of 2020 and then ongoing, Shelby Public Transit, the mobility manager and an as-yet unidentified coordinator will provide transportation that supports employment and nonmedical trips in the county to provide people the opportunity to secure and maintain employment when transportation is a barrier and to support those who have to pay for private transportation to get to work or medical appointments.

Strategies call for the coordinator to work with human resource departments of local industries to identify why employees can’t get to work, to investigate options for car-pooling and ridesharing and to explore the possiblibity of employers’ providing tokens for rides on Shelby Public Transit vehicles.

In addition, Shelby Public Transit and the mobility manager will develop feeder routes to and from surrounding counties and establish bus stops in those counties. They will also research funding options.

On Thursday, the committee brainstormed about ways to develop transfer options for Shelby Countians who use Shelby Public Transit to get to appointments in Columbus. Among the ideas discussed were connecting with the public transit system in Champagne County. Committee members whose organizations maintain contracts to pay for such transport will investigate such possibilities.

Goal 4: Increase out-of-county service

• By the end of 2021, the mobility manager and the Shelby Public Transit manager will increase out-of-county service to Dayton, Columbus and Lima for people who must get to appointments in those cities.

To do so, they will reduce duplicaton of services through multi-county cooperation by utilizing dispatch software to coordinate schedules and maximize capacity on vehicles.

To date, committee members reported, the limitations of the software in use do not facilitate sharing of information.

By Patricia Ann Speelman

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.