CYCLING — Dozens of people have urged the board of the Ohio Valley Regional Transportation Authority to extend hours to allow drivers to get to and from their jobs, appointments and other matters important to them.
Drivers and representatives from several social services attended an OVRTA public hearing at Wheeling City Council Chambers on Wednesday. The meeting was requested by those present.
Almost all speakers said their customers, some of whom cannot afford their own vehicles, are trying to get back on their feet financially.
However, the public buses do not run during the times when they are either starting a shift or finishing a shift.
Others, they said, have to meet specific court-ordered appointments or attend meetings and have difficulty using public transportation to reach them on time or at all.
After hearing people’s comments during the 90-minute session, some board members thanked everyone for their comments, adding that they learned a lot about people’s struggles. City manager Robert Herron said the board will consider all comments and develop an action plan.
Travis McBride, an employee of the Youth Services System, said he believed the bus had to run until 9 p.m. Others suggested even later, by 10 p.m., since that is when many people working in restaurants and shops have finished work.
“That’s a problem. We have a problem,” said Claudia Raymer, executive director of the Ohio County Family Resource Network. “Public transport is the backbone of progress.”
It has also been noted by several people that some of the low-income housing is not on a bus route.
Some of the carless people living there have to cover long distances on steep roads to reach their appointments or jobs.
Later Alligator’s Mitch Haddad noted that he has 33 employees and 11 of them don’t currently drive. One man, he said, spends $20 a day in cab rides to get from his home in Bellaire to his place of work.
Laurie Conway, marketing and communications director for the Wheeling Chamber of Commerce, said almost all of its member companies complain about staffing issues. She believes that better access to transport would help solve the problem.
Ohio County Family Support Center program director Colleen Mowrey said more routes are also needed. She added that one of her clients lost her job because her assigned working hours didn’t match the bus schedule.
Local resident Susan Higgins claimed there was one “Lack of Interest” by those running the bus company to make changes.
“We were told no one would come. That’s a lot of nobodies.” Higgins told the crowd.
She later commented that she thinks increasing bus times would help “A dent in the homeless population.”
A representative for the Public Defender’s Office said people in recovery often struggle to reach court and treatment appointments because of problems with public transportation.
A few people mentioned needing services in Moundsville. Herron noted that the board may re-explore this route.