ODOT approves transportation plan

By Patricia Ann Speelman - [email protected]

SIDNEY — Shelby County has a new, state-approved, public transportation plan.

Three months of work by a committee of local social service representatives paid off Thursday, when the Ohio Department of Transportation approved the four-year plan they’d drafted to improve transportation options for local residents.

Catholic Social Services was the lead agency in the process and its mobility manager, Michelle Caserta, wrote the 49-page document that was submitted to ODOT, Nov. 10. She will continue to spearhead efforts to meet the goals listed.

“The Federal Transit Administration says if you want funds, you have to be a part of a plan,” she said. ODOT administers the FTA funds that various agencies receive.

The committee began by looking at a plan that was written in 2008 and discovered that the needs identified then are still needs, a decade later. The goals in the new plan reflect those continuing needs. This time around, however, Caserta noted, the plan includes strategies for meeting the goals and a clear timeline for implementation along with who will be responsible for accomplishing each strategy.

The committee will continue to serve as an advisory board as efforts are made to reach each objective within the next four years. And Caserta expects that additional people will join the committee or participate in other ways in efforts to achieve the goals.

“It’s important that people know this is ongoing,” Caserta said. “We need the public to give feedback. This is just the beginning. Community input is important if this is going to work.”

The four goals and their strategies are as follows:

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

The advisory committee will review and update the plan annually.

“There’s not one goal that’s more important than another,” Caserta said. “We’re going to work on strategies due within the first year. Then it’s like stepping stones.”

By Patricia Ann Speelman

[email protected]

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.