A new public transportation plan for Highland County was announced Tuesday during a virtual meeting held by FRS Transportation.
The new plan was made possible by a $19,950 grant FRS Transportation from the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission to help funds a county survey to see of rural transit would work in Highland County.
A new plan is usually made every four years and updated each year between that plan. Joe Adray, the FRS Highland County mobility manager, said the hope is that the new plan will be in place by the end of this year. It will then take the county through 2025, when a new plan will be completed.
The current is being contracted to Gannett Fleming, who Adray said has done similar plans before. He said the last one it completed was in Scioto County and was done well.
Adray said FRS is currently waiting to hear from consultants to know when it can start surveys, which will be conducted both online as well as on paper. FRS is hoping a “big mixture of folks” respond so a lot of input is given.
“You know, that will begin within about the next week or so,” Adray said. “I expect to talk to the consultants, and so I just want to keep everyone aware of that. It’s a big deal for the county… So, I’ll be sending out more information to everyone so that you’ll be able to know what’s going on and how we all participate in that.”
In other news, FRS Transportation Director Damon Lucas said FRS will be reopening routes “hopefully” in May after closing them in March of 2020 because of COVID-19. For Highland County, the pay rate for FRS travel is $1 to the place they want to go if the person is in Hillsboro or Greenfield, $2 if they are within 10 miles from either town and $3 if the travel is more than that.
Lucas said that FRS started county transit between Adams and Highland counties in March, which has a $4 fair from one county to the other. FRS also started doing demand-response in Adams County in January of this year, at about the same rates as Highland County, basing the Adams County program out of West Union.
“I can’t say strongly enough how important this low-cost transportation of rural transit has been and will become even more important in Adams and in Highland counties… Again, there just has not been any kind of really low-cost transportation in Highland or Adams counties, and so I’m just excited about that program and want to see that program grow to whatever it can become. Because it’s serving the people and that’s the important thing,” Adray said.
They are two looping routes in Hillsboro that go in opposite directions so people can get home quicker instead of riding around the whole loop. Lucas said they are “deviated, fixed routes” which allows them to pick people up that might not be able to make it to the stop and then continue the route.
Lucas said FRS will continue with the van response, which was “huge” has been huge during Covid when FRS took people to the grocery store, doctor’s office, or other places they might have needed to go to. FRS is also working on a plan with the Ohio Department of Transportation to offer rides to vaccination sites, where the rates will be subsidized by ODOT. He said the organization was making around 1,800 to 2,000 trips per month on the public transit side.
“I would like to thank, I mean, we have made, you guys have made such amazing progress in the last few years,” Tonya Sturgill, Highland County Probation Department director, said. “You know, I’ve been working in the community for 21 years, and that consistently was an ongoing problem was transportation no matter what we were dealing with, what agency it was we were trying to move people back and forth to, transportation was always such an issue, and this has just made a huge difference.”
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.