WAYNE COUNTY, OH, Sep. 2020 — Grants totaling more than $1.4 million from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will pave the way for expanded public transit service in Wayne County representatives of the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA), Community Action of Wayne and Medina Counties (CAWM), and the Wayne County commissioners announced today.
According to Wayne County Commissioner Ron Amstutz, the ODOT grants will fund a pilot program that will extend ride-sharing and other transit services to residents living outside the city of Wooster beginning early next year. The area’s private transportation providers will have the opportunity to submit proposals to provide the service. SARTA and CAWM will administer and coordinate the program.
Melissa Pearce, CAWM President and CEO, said the grant-funded project represents the next logical step in the drive to bring expanded transportation service to Wayne County.
“The City of Wooster’s robust investment in transportation and the launch of Rural Mobility Solutions, our workplace access pilot, established a strong foundation for growth,” Pearce said. “The combination of the city’s commitment to enhanced mobility, SARTA’s experience, and resources, and the ODOT dollars will keep us moving in the right direction.”
SARTA CEO Kirt Conrad said the award-winning and the nationally-respected transit system is excited about being part of the innovative project.
“We know that residents of rural areas want, need and deserve safe, affordable, and reliable mobility services,” he said. “We look forward to using our expertise to help develop the pilot program, coordinate scheduling, and routing, and ensure that the community gets the biggest bang possible for ODOT’s dollars.”
Amstutz hopes the pilot project will serve as a model for other rural areas in the state.
“Across Ohio, the lack of mobility is a barrier to self-sufficiency and economic growth,” he said. “We believe programs like the one we envision have the potential to break down those barriers and improve the quality of life for thousands of people.”
The pilot project will be designed to meet transportation needs identified via a survey of residents conducted earlier this year. It will target residents who need rides to work, medical appointments, or local courts.
Discussions are now underway to determine and develop a scope of services and fare structures. When that process is complete, SARTA and CAWM will begin accepting proposals from private transportation providers.
Performance metrics that will be used to evaluate the program are now in development. The length of time needed to implement the pilot fully and the final scope of services will be determined by several factors, including the availability of funding from federal, state, and local sources and the ability of private transportation providers to meet identified needs.
By Dan Starcher, public communications specialist for the Wayne County government.