Transit needs are assessed

TRANSIT WISH LIST — An area resident jots down her thoughts on regional transportation needs while Sean Sammon, transit planner with Ohio Mid-Eastern Government Association, looks on. -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — The Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association wants to know what Jefferson County residents are looking for in terms of transit service.

Sean Sammon, OMEGA transit planner, was at Prime Time Monday to find out how locals get to the places they need to go now and how to make it easier for seniors, the disabled and those without access to reliable transportation to get around.

Sammon said OMEGA is in the second year of a two-year pilot transit program funded by the Ohio Department of Transportation. In year one, the focus was on local transit needs; now, they’re trying to approach it from a regional perspective.

The project is aimed at figuring out what, if anything, ODOT can do “to make transportation more effective and at a lower cost to the provider and public.”

Those attending the workshop were asked to fill out a brief survey that attempted to gauge not only how they get around now, but also what qualities would make public transportation appealing, what kinds of trips they need it for, their destinations and changes that would make it work for them. Planners even want to know what day of the week and time of day are most attractive.

“We started in January and already have over 700 surveys so far,” Sammon said. “A lot of the answers are obvious — they want more transportation services, they want the options to be more clear.”

He said one of the biggest needs that’s emerged at both the local and regional workshops is finding a way to ensure locals have access to reliable transportation to and from their workplace. Census data shows about 30 percent of working people have jobs outside the county.

“What we’ve found is the general public doesn’t have problems getting jobs, but they do have trouble keeping them,” he said. “They don’t have reliable transportation to get them (back and forth). It’s a huge issue.”

OMEGA represents a 10-county area stretching from Holmes County “all the way down to Muskingum, over to Belmont then up to Columbiana,” Sammon said.

He also said they’re working with other area groups, including senior services, veteran services and Jobs and Family Services, to develop the regional plan.

“ODOT wants to know if (public transportation) is needed and if they can help fill a gap,” he said.

Anyone who couldn’t attend the transit workshop can share his or her thoughts online at omegadistrict.org/needs. They also can fill out the public survey at omegadistrict.org/survey.

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