BUCKHANNON — How can public transportation be expanded to reach more people in Region VII? The West Virginia Department of Transportation Division of Public Transit requires an updated plan every three years and the plan from 2015 is in need of an update. A meeting was arranged at the Upshur County Senior Center for anyone in Region VII who was interested in public transportation. Kelly Shawn, senior associate with RLS and Associate Inc, lead the presentation and explained the goals of the meeting. Any agencies that received funding from the Federal Transit Administration Section 5310 Program are required to help put together a new plan, which was what this meeting was meant to do.
Shawn said the meeting required everyone to come up with a plan and explain what needs to change to improve transportation in Region VII which consists up Barbour, Braxton, Gilmer, Lewis, Randolph, Tucker and Upshur counties.
“It does require that you come up with solutions and coordination ideas,” Shawn said. “Does it require that you do them? No. But through this process, you'll find that if you don't do them, you could be missing an opportunity to collaborate with your neighbors and other agencies and even agencies that don't have transportation services.”
Everyone at the meeting was asked to make a list of things the current system in Region VII could do better or if there was a service missing entirely. Kevin Crutchfield, who works with the Upshur County Senior Center, said the most important issue they have is transporting people who do not fall under emergency medical transportation.
“We got rid of a lot vans and we are using Country Roads Transit now, but we get a lot of calls for the non-medical transportation but they don’t have Medicaid and we don’t know who to get ahold of for transportation like that,” Crutchfield said.
Shannon Cunningham Snead, the Central WV Community Action executive director, said there are not enough affordable options.
“I would expand on that and just say the demand out numbers the affordable resources,” Snead said. “Often, if you don't have Medicaid or Veterans Administration, you might be able to get a taxi or a private provider but the cost of that is going to be quadruple what it would be otherwise.”
Tammie Rizzio with Youth Health Services in Elkins, said children also have a hard time finding public transportation.
“I work pretty closely with the Child Advocacy Center and sometimes they have a hard time getting children and families to come in because of transportation issues,” Rizzio said. “They don't meet the requirement of the non emergency medical transport so they can't be transported or even though they might have a medical card, they still can't go through logistic care. Sometimes an interview that should be done within 48 hours takes a week to get scheduled because of working out transportation.”
Jay Hollen, a city engineer for Buckhannon, said the existing routes need to be expanded.
“The expansion of the existing routes should be a priority,” Hollen said. “They have some established routes and they have a good time between them but if they just added a couple stops, that’s worth the extra five to 10 minutes.”
Darlene Crane, the Little Kanawha Transit Authority manager, said funding is the overarching issue.
“I think one of our greatest needs is we don’t have enough hours,” Crane said. “Because we don’t have enough employees and we don’t have enough financial means so we can’t start any earlier and some people have a lot earlier appointments or later appointments, so we can’t always accommodate them and they have to change their appointments. That’s one of the issues we have.”
A press release requested residents put in their input at a public survey at surveymonkey.com/r/WVMobility.