Editorial: County should stop spinning wheels
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel-Tribune Editor   
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 12:27
Editor_Jan.4178_story
Jan Larson McLaughlin
It’s not uncommon to hear Wood County officials brag about their teamwork and their ability to find solutions where other counties fail due to partisanship or turf battles. And in most cases, they are probably right.
But when it comes to providing transportation to those without their own vehicles, a decade or more of efforts have consistently stalled out in Wood County. The roadblocks have repeatedly been identified — too large of a rural geographic area to cover, a lack of adequate funding, difficulty securing insurance.
However, while Wood County’s efforts sat idling, nearly every other county in the area has accelerated their transportation efforts and created systems to meet the needs of their citizens. They encountered some of the same difficulties, but found detours around them.
It’s time for Wood County to live up to its reputation of seeking solutions rather than spinning its wheels on a coordinated transportation system.
It’s time for us to get on the bus — and provide rides for others in need.
WSOS Community Action Commission has given local officials the vehicle to do so. The agency is leading a series of meetings to find public transportation solutions for Wood County. And finally, people are focusing on how to make it happen — rather than dwelling on all the reasons to not get involved.
After all, Wood County with its 621 square miles is a tough place to traverse for those without cars. Aside from pockets of public transportation in the north and in Bowling Green, the rest of the county has no buses, taxi cabs or public transit vans.
A survey conducted last year showed increasing local transportation needs. Many identified problems getting to medical appointments, therapy, daycare, the grocery store, pharmacy or church. Several stated they have to hitch rides with others to get to work — while others said they had to turn down employment because they had no reliable way to get to the job.
These are people who have been easy to ignore. They have little clout when it comes to convincing government to change.
Last year in an effort to put the transportation effort into gear, Robin Richter of WSOS told the story of a Grand Rapids area couple in their 80s, who have difficulty getting to doctors’ appointments, the grocery store and the hardware store. She put a human face on the complicated issue. But still the issue stalled.
But this year, Richter has shared stories about neighboring counties that have all overcome the barriers to public transportation.
For example, to the west, Henry County serves 29,000 residents in a very rural 500 square miles.
To the south, Hancock County works with United Way to come up with a $960,000 budget for the Hancock Area Transportation System.
To the east, Ottawa County provides about 100,000 trips a year. The coordinator there said they first had to overcome turf wars and resist the trap of focusing on why the system wouldn’t work. And the City of Sandusky and Perkins Township have developed a system that provides 120,000 rides a year, primarily getting people to work.
Now’s the chance for Wood County to get on the bus. If we are serious about serving residents and putting people to work, then it’s time to apply the gas instead of the brake on a coordinated public transportation system.
 

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