The Highland Area Rural Transportation System (HARTS) committee has been dreaming of providing the community with more widespread public transportation, and on Wednesday it took another step toward accomplishing that dream when it applied for a grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) Rural Transit Program.
If its application is approved, Joseph Adray, the mobility manager for Highland County, told The Times-Gazette that it would take a minimum of six months before the system would be in place and running.
If it comes to fruition, HARTS would bring a fleet of small, handicap accessible buses to both Hillsboro and Greenfield by spring 2020 at the earliest by Adray’s estimate.
Currently, fares are projected to be $2 for rides within the towns of Hillsboro or Greenfield, while trips between Hillsboro and Greenfield would cost about $4. The system would also allow for slight deviations from the set routes in order to assist passengers unable to make the journey to designated stops. In addition, Adray said that though transportation between towns would be limited to Hillsboro and Greenfield for the first year of operation, the committee has hopes of expanding to other nearby communities such as Leesburg, Buford and New Vienna during the system’s second year.
“I feel like we’ve taken a big stride for Highland County with this application,” Adray said. “The grant is large, but most people don’t understand what the cost of transportation is. It takes quite a bit of startup capital.”
The Rural Transit Program provides funding from the federal and state level for up to 50 percent of operating costs in rural communities. The HARTS committee is requesting around $2 million, which Family Recovery Services (FRS) Transportation would match. The HARTS committee will know whether or not its application has been approved by Oct. 1.
However, even if it is not approved this year, that does not mean project administrators will give up.
“If we are denied, we still plan to continue because we think it’s too important not to,” Adray said. “This has been our number one goal for two years now, and I don’t see that changing.”
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.