Meigs Co. receives funding for public transportation system

By Makya Trussell - Special to OVP

MEIGS COUNTY — The absence of accessible, yet affordable public transit in Meigs County has been a continuous issue county stakeholders have faced in the previous years — and a topic of concern for those who are unable to attain transportation for schooling, routine health care, work, community events and more.

After frequent discussion among different agencies of the county, Meigs County will soon see its long-waited public transportation system.

On Jan. 24, 2020, the Meigs County Department of Job and Family Services (MCDJFS) took the lead on the project of bringing public transportation to the community. As early as the following month, in February 2020, MCDJFS submitted a letter of interest to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) on behalf of the County regarding the initiative for the start-up of a public transportation system.

In the wake the COVID-19 pandemic, community members, other social services and the local school districts supported Job and Family Services (JFS) in the mission by surveying community needs of transportation, conducting a feasibility study and updating plans as needed while they progressed. All in which ultimately played a tremendous role in gaining the approval of the final County Transportation Plan by the end of the 2020.

The system will begin as an on-demand system, meaning patrons will be able to call to reserve transportation. However, plans will eventually evolve into a hybrid system that will include a fixed route where bus stops will be location throughout the county. Vehicles transporting patrons will consist of SUVs, mini-vans and one or two 12-15 passenger buses. All vehicles will be handicap accessible. Once the system is open to the general public, a tentative plan will have the system operating Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Extended hours including weekends and holidays are also being considered for future transit.

As demand grows, the system will do the same. Estimates will start with 8-10 vehicles as well as drivers in the first year of operation. In years 2-5, MCDJFS anticipates the growth to extend to 15-20 vehicles and drivers on the road. If demands persists, the possibility of 25 vehicles, as well as drivers, is also included in the tentative timeline.

In February 2021, MCDJFS submitted letters of intent for the funding of programs: Rural Transit Program — Section 5311, Specialized Transportation Program — Section 5310, Bus and Bus Facilities Program — Section 5339 and the Mobility Management and Ohio Transit Partnership Program — OTP2.

Following in March, the Meigs County Board of Commissioners implemented the creation of the new office, Meigs County Public Transit (MCPT) that will be operated by the MCDJFS and its administrative staff. Preliminary architectural plans consist of a multi-use building to house the MCPT office and is projected to be located at the former Veterans Memorial Hospital site on East Memorial Drive in Pomeroy.

Quick to progress, four applications were submitted for public transit funding to ODOT; in turn, MCDJFS received a total of $939,889 in Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) funding as of August 2021 to support the start-up. An investment that will provide Meigs County residents who cannot drive or who do not have access to transportation, the availability of transportation services that is cost effective and community tailored. This will allow individuals the opportunity to receive services they may not otherwise have been able to — such as, education opportunities, employment, local health care, route to retail establishments as well as community activities and events. The Public Transportation System will also create new employment opportunities.

The Public Transportation System will grow in three set phases:

Phase 1: MCDJFS and MCPT will provide Non-Emergency Transportation beginning in early 2022. Some operations have already started.

Phase 2: MCPT will offer transportation services, via contracts or agreements, to other agencies or organizations that express transportation needs (exemption for school busing) beginning mid or late Spring, 2022.

Phase 3: MCPT will open the public transportation system to the general public, via fares or other funding sources beginning in mid or late Summer, 2022.

For any questions regarding the public transportation system please contact Chris Shank, Director at 740-444-7600, Theresa Lavender, Deputy Director of Public Transportation and Programs at 740-444-7601 or Adam Warden at 740-444-7604.

Press release written by Makya Trussell on behalf of Meigs County Department of Job and Family Service.

By Makya Trussell

Special to OVP