At the Highland Area Rural Transportation System (HARTS) Committee meeting Wednesday, those who attended the meeting agreed to continue with the same goals from the previous year.
Joe Adray, Highland County mobility manager, said the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) requires that county goals be reviewed and updated every year to best meet the county’s needs. The previous year’s goals were to provide unrestricted, low-cost public transportation; to increase the amount of hours public transportation is offered throughout the week; to add weekend hours; to better serve the elderly and people with disabilities; to increase transportation options for low-income workers, students and those without Medicaid; to increase service for those with Medicaid; to increase public awareness of current transportation services; to increase public knowledge of the cost associated with public transportation in Highland County; and to involve the mobility manager with emergency preparedness.
Adray also told those at the meeting that the HARTS Committee is still waiting to hear whether or not its application for funding has been approved.
The Times-Gazette spoke with Adray in August regarding the application, which would provide a $2 million grant for public transportation, if approved. The grant would go toward creating a regular transportation system in both Hillsboro and Greenfield with a connecting route between the two towns, which would be available in spring 2020 at the earliest.
Adray said that the committee has received questions from ODOT to clarify different parts of the committee’s application, which he said is typically a good sign, though nothing is guaranteed at this point. Adray expects to know whether or not the committee’s application is approved by the end of September.
The remainder of the meeting involved discussing the county’s transportation needs. Discussion revealed that there is a deficiency in cost-effective transportation for those who need to get to specialists in bigger cities such as Chillicothe and Cincinnati.
Damon Lucas, the new FRS Transportation director, said that at this time, those who need to see specialists, but do not have Medicaid, have to pay out-of-pocket for a trip outside of Hillsboro. The trips can get expensive as the cost is calculated on a cost per mile basis for each mile outside a 10-mile radius from Hillsboro. Adray said that the goal of the HARTS program is to eventually connect with other area transportation systems to make it more easy for people to get to other places.
“It’s hard to imagine the cost that goes into transportation,” Adray said. “Someone may think, ‘I put $10 of gas in my car, and I go here and there. Why can’t you do the same?’ We have substantial insurance, vehicle investment, driver requirements, and we’ve got to pay the driver. It gets really expensive.”
Adray stated that the HARTS Committee is always open to the help of more transportation providers to meet the transportation needs of Highland County. However, any providers would need to meet specific criteria involving their insurance, vehicle and driver regulations.
Interested parties should contact Adray at 937-402-6156 for more information.
For more information about the HARTS program, go to harts4highland.com.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.