SIDNEY — Fourteen representatives of area social service and government agencies convened Wednesday, Sept. 20, to begin the process of developing a new transportation plan for Shelby County.
Catholic Social Services was awarded a $160,000 Federal Transit Administration grant, administered by the Ohio Department of Transportation, to lead the endeavor.
Catholic Social Services Mobility Manager Michelle Caserta said she had invited 50 agencies, businesses and industries to participate. To meet grant requirements, a plan must be submitted to ODOT by Nov. 17.
During Wednesday’s meeting in the Senior Center of Sidney and Shelby County, attendees looked at goals that had been identified in the last county transportation plan, which was written in 2008.
The planning committee discussed its four goals and assessed how much implementation has been done in the last nine years.
Goal No. 1 was to educate the residents of Shelby County regarding public and coordinated transportation.
“Are residents educated enough about what’s available concerning transportation?” Caserta asked. In the ensuing discussion, it was noted that a certain target population — the elderly, people with disabilities, Medicaid recipients — know about options, but not everyone does.
The committee talked about ways to get the word out, including the possibility of a designated Shelby Public Transit Month, during which residents could look at Shelby Public Transit vehicles in satellite locations, and first-time riders could get discounted tickets.
Goal No. 2: Create a structure to provide more affordable transportation service to the general public within Shelby County.
The committee noted that in order to expand existing services, new funding streams would have to be identified. Some agencies could apply for grants to support services for their specific clientele. Industries could be surveyed to establish whether their employees need transportation to get to and from work, and whether they lose potential employees due to a lack of transportation.
Shelby Public Transit has an agreement with Miami County Transit to connect in order that riders can move between the counties. The committee discussed the option to create additional connectors with other counties.
One action item in the 2008 plan was dismissed immediately by the new committee. Developing what is known as a point deviated route system — what would amount to public buses running regular routes — could not be financially supported here. The idea won’t be part of the new plan.
Goal No. 3: Provide transportation that supports employment in the county and region through rideshare, carpool and vanpool programs.
Caserta described Miami County’s Continuum of Care Rides to Work program, in which volunteers ferry people to and from work and to important appointments.
Gary Clough, Sidney assistant city manager, said, “If the need was there, we could look at extended hours” of operation for Shelby Public Transit. The city and county governments subsidize that agency, which currently offers low-cost rides from 5 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., weekdays.
The last goal in 2008 was to increase out-of-county service to Dayton, Columbus, Troy and Lima and to reduce duplication of service through multi-county cooperation.
Caserta noted that the agreement between Shelby and Miami counties has accomplished that goal in terms of Troy. The committee offered ideas for travel to the other cities, among them discounting fares if vans were filled with passengers going to any of those cities.
The next step for the planning committee is to convene focus groups throughout the county to get information and ideas for new goals from the general public. The Sidney Daily News will publish notices of those meetings as they are scheduled.
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