SIDNEY — The Shelby Public Transit continues to provide transportation for city of Sidney and Shelby County riders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Transit service as to where buses will or will not travel, has followed the orders put forth by Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton, MD, MPH.
Ridership has been down by about 28%, said Transit Manager Ron Schalow, as non-essential trips were not available prior to businesses reopening.
Now that restaurants and more businesses are open, riders have more options, but up until Ohio’s stay-at-home orders have been lifted, transportation to visit friends’ homes was not available. Schalow concedes it has been “a changing situation” at the transit. Buses now will likely transport wherever, a change that comes after DeWine’s Tuesday’s (March 19) press conference. DeWine announced the original stay-at-home order, which morphed into the “Ohioans safe-at-home” order is now called the “Ohioans protecting Ohioans,” the newest phase of the urgent health advisory that still strongly urges people to stay home but does not order it. As of Wednesday morning, Schalow said, the city had not made an official change to the transit’s policy, but he expects transportation to open up soon.
“It is kind of confusing,” Schalow admitted. “We are trying to navigate and do the best with what information we have available to us. We have had less buses on the road because we have limited trips to essential trips. For instance, if people wanted to go to Walmart, that is considered essential because it is a business that is open. Health reasons, of course we go to those. But we have not just been taking people to homes just for visits.”
Ridership has been down also because school kids have not needed rides, since school is not in session, and a number of senior citizens are not riding because the Senior Center of Shelby County is closed. Typically the Shelby Public Transit has a “good cross-section” of ridership across the board of ages, and backgrounds, he said.
“Some folks are just not choosing to ride at this time due to an abundance of caution,” Schalow said.
They started to see a drop in ridership at the transit in March when DeWine began to close schools, but the numbers fell off greatly in April as non-essential businesses remained closed for the entire month. Assistant City Manager/Public Works director recently told the Sidney City Council he expects ridership to rebound as things start to get back to normal.
The cleaning of buses have been stepped up to ensure the safety of riders and drivers, Schalow said. Buses are thoroughly cleaned before each new day of service, as well as the continuous wiping down of highly touched surfaces, such as hand rails, seat belt latches and handles on the top of seats. All drivers are now wearing masks, but masks are optional for riders, Schalow said.
The transportation of Shelby Public Transit buses is different than larger city transit buses in that riders are picked up and dropped off from and to their chosen destinations, opposed to a pre-set route of stops where riders are picked up or dropped off.
“Our service is entirely, what is called demand response — which is not that unlike what a taxi would do,” Schalow said. “The difference between us and a taxi is that we may have multiple riders going to and coming from multiple place, so it could make for a longer ride. The trade-off for that is isn’t going to (cost) as much as it would be to call a taxi.”
Currently the fare (of non-contract rates) for senior citizens, or those with disabilities, for a one-way ride within Sidney is $1, and in the county is $2.50. The fare for the general public within Sidney is $2.50, and in the county is $5. Children under age 5 ride for free.
The Shelby Public Transit provides transportation for Shelby County residents Monday through Friday. It’s business hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m; the city service hours are from 5 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and the county service hours are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Transportation is available outside of the county at a higher contracted rate. Connecting to Miami County’s transit is available at a reasonable rate.
For more information about the transit and rates visit its webpage on the city of Sidney’s website at https://www.sidneyoh.com/219/Shelby-Public-Transit.
Rides are available by appointment. The transit requests at least a 24 hour notice, but based on other pre-scheduling, rides with less notice may be available. To schedule a ride call 937-492-6117.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.