County eyes new road plan
Written by HAROLD BROWN Sentinel City Editor
Thursday, 30 January 2014 10:56
Work on updating a coordinated transportation plan for Wood County moved ahead Wednesday afternoon with a look at how other Northwest Ohio counties have developed and operate their networks.
"There are so many possibilities. You are the stakeholders. It is up to you to identify what can be done," said Robin Richter, director of senior and transportation services for WSOS Community Action.
Richter is facilitator for the plan update, which started in January 2013 and is to be completed by late March. The original plan was completed in 2008 and needs to be updated every five years to enable agencies to qualify for federal and state grants to support their transportation needs.
Richter updated the Wood County Commissioners Tuesday morning on the status of the plan update. She told commissioners an inventory of public and private transportation in the county "had opened people's eyes to the vast amount of resources available." She said surveys of residents had also shown where services are lacking. Richter said it is not her job to tell Wood County what to do, but to give stakeholders an idea of what could be done.
Commissioners will be asked to review and adopt the plan in March, which will then be submitted to the Ohio Department of Transportation, which oversees transportation grants.
Speakers Wednesday were Colette Cordova, the Area Office on Aging of Northwest Ohio; Mike Saneholtz, Henry County Transportation Network; Scott Potter of Black and White Cab Co., Toledo; John Urbanski, United Way of Hancock County; Bill Lowe, Ottawa County Transportation Agency; Lucinda Smith, Huron County; Thomas Schwam, Sandusky Transit System in Erie County; and Linda Good, past executive director of Seneca County Area Transit.
Denise Neise, of the Wood County Committee on Aging, moderated the panel.
Saneholtz said the Henry County system serves 29,000 residents, with 9,000 living in Napoleon, the only city in the county, which is more than 500 square miles. Saneholtz said the key to success has been understanding and education. "We are very fortunate. Other counties have not gotten together. We have gotten together and do everything." He is full-time coordinator of the service.
Urbanski said a United Way survey in 2003 indicated transportation was ranked third on the list of needs in Hancock County, with a population of 72,000, about 40,000 living in Findlay. United Way provides $287,000 a year in a $960,000 budget for the Hancock Area Transportation System.
He said transportation remains an issue in the county, but the system helps people get to work and do other necessary tasks.
Urbanski also talked about ITN America, which has helped establish volunteer-based transportation networks in 22 cities, the closest being in Cincinnati. The ITN model requires a population center of 200,000, which Urbanski said could be established in a rural area stretching from Bowling Green to Lima. He attempted to raise $50,000 to push the concept in Findlay, but was not successful. Urbanski said the Ohio Department of Aging is looking at the idea. "This is not meant to replace but supplement what we have." He said Ohio State-Lima, Ohio Northern at Ada, Owens Community College, BGSU and University of Findlay could all help on the volunteer end of the plan.
Potter, whose firm contracts to operate BG Transit, said his business has benefitted by being able to dispatch Bowling Green rides from Toledo, using systems that have developed over the past 13 years. "The private sector is not the answer to everything, but it can be part of the solution," Potter said. He added that making a payroll every two weeks helps to make sure than an operation is "lean and mean."
Lowe said the need and desire is for transportation around the clock, seven days a week. He said people have come to expect transportation as a part of their lives in the 21st century. "The Millenials are not car-centric. They want to be using their iPads and iPods. People want to participate in society."
Ottawa County provides about 100,000 trips a year. Lowe said forming the system had to overcome turf wars. "For a while it was people saying what they couldn't do instead of finding ways to make things work."
Schwan said Sandusky and Perkins Township have developed a fixed route system that is providing 120,000 rides, most getting people to and from work. He said that area's service economy is a key to the success.
"People coordinate their systems when they realize what (money) they could save." The system has other vehicles serving Erie County that have come from agencies that operated their own systems in the past.
The stakeholders will meet again Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. to brainstorm coordination strategies for consideration. The meetings are held in the fifth-floor Commissioner's Hearing Room of the Wood County Office Building.