Organizers of a local public transporation system have received a $20,000 grant to conduct a feasibility study and there are hopes that the system could be up and running within a year, officials said Monday during a meeting at the Highland County Health Department.
“For the first time we’re looking at seriously being able to bring low-cost, or reduced-rate, transportation to Highland County,” Joe Adray, mobility manager for the Highland Area Rural Transporation System (HARTS), said after the meeting.
Adray said that in the beginning, tentative plans are for “deviated loops” around Hillsboro and Greenfield five days a week, twice a day, plus trips to and from Hillsboro and Greenfield. He said that the cost for a ride in the Hillsboro or Greenfield areas would possibly be $1, and the cost of a trip back and forth between the two towns would possibly be $2 or $2.50.
He described deviated loops as ones that would travel off the main route a short distance to pick up someone who could not easily make it to a designated stop, and that the route to or from Hillsboro and Greenfield would probably be more fixed.
“We want to keep the cost as low as we can so people can afford it,” Adray said.
HARTS currently offers limited rides primarily for seniors, handicapped, and economically challenged residents, and those rides have to be billed through Medicaid. But the new system would be available to everyone.
“The goal is to serve the people of Highland County,” Adray said. “We want those people that haven’t been able to have dependable transporation to have it.”
He said HARTS is still trying to figure out run times and other details, and in the coming weeks will be looking for input from the retail and manufacturing sectors, as well as the public and municipal officials, to work those things out.
For the time being, Adray said, HARTS is concentrating on the county’s most populated areas. But he said once the system is up and running, there is a possibility of adding a route in the Rocky Fork Lake area, and after that there could possibly be routes to areas like Sinking Spring, Lynchburg, Buford, Leesburg and New Vienna, with some of those routes possibly being combined.
“We want to get to the big population centers, then later, it might be one day a week, to the smaller communities. But at least that would be something people could count on,” Adray said.
He said HARTS is looking to submit an application in the fall, get Ohio Department of Transporation approval, then possibly implement the program in about one year.
Between now and the fall, HARTS will announce public meetings and will notify city councils in an effort to inform and receive input from everyone.
“We want public input, suggestions and ideas,” Adray said. “It cannot be an agency-driven thing. It needs to be the public that gives us input and the general direction we need to go.”
The $20,000 grant for the feasibility study came from the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission. The study is being conducted by Carpenter Marty Transporation with offices in Cincinnati and Columbus.
John Gallagher, director of traffic and planning services for Carpenter Marty, said it will take less than six months, maybe three to four months, to complete the study. He said the company will be reviewing transportation studies, looking at ridership information and the types of riders that will be served, and determining the exact goals of the program.
Adray noted that transporation programs currently in place will still be available.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.