YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – An ambitious pilot program to develop an autonomous shuttle to serve downtown Youngstown – plus new public awareness campaigns and green initiatives – made for a smooth ride in 2022 for the Western Reserve Transit Authority and its customers.
“We’re always working to improve service for our riders, and at the same time, find ways to support the Mahoning Valley,” says Dean Harris, executive director, “2022 was a big year for kicking off new projects to help us achieve those goals.”
The autonomous vehicle project will feature a 12-passenger shuttle that will operate along a route connecting Federal Station, St. Elizabeth Hospital and Youngstown State University.
Other projects in 2022 included the addition of a solar canopy and charging equipment for electric buses as part of renovations at the bus barn storage facility at its headquarters on Mahoning Avenue. The solar panels will reduce the impact on the electrical grid and reduce WRTA’s need to use electricity that may be generated by fossil fuels, Harris says.
WRTA also initiated campaigns in support of businesses, education and community organizations.
In May, WRTA launched its “Give Small Business a Lift Campaign.” Twelve small businesses were highlighted, one of which won a $3,000 TV advertising package during the kick-off event downtown.
In September, WRTA rolled out its All Star Schools Campaign. The campaign recognized secondary schools and the job they do in developing future leaders. WRTA highlighted 24 schools through TV commercials, social media and on the buses.
WRTA wrapped up 2022 with its annual Holiday Lights Campaign. Twelve organizations were chosen and featured on signs on WRTA buses. At a kickoff event, each organization was presented with a recognition award.
WRTA provided more than two million rides in 2022, Harris says, getting passengers to work, shopping, doctor appointments and more.