WRTA Expanding Trumbull County Routes in March

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — After being in the works for about a year, the Western Reserve Transit Authority announced it will begin fixed-route bus services in Trumbull County starting March 2020.

A $1.8 million grant through the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Ohio Transit Preservation Partnership Program will provide the needed funding for the services, said Dean Harris, executive director of WRTA. Harris made the announcement at the WRTA stakeholder meeting Tuesday morning at the Williamson College of Business Administration on the campus of Youngstown State University.

The six suggested routes will provide a more seamless connection for riders traveling the WRTA 28-Warren Express Route, which runs from Federal Station downtown here to Courthouse Square in Warren. WRTA will seek public input to finalize the routes.

In December 2018, WRTA expanded the Warren Express Route to include stops at 4th Street SW and Tod Avenue to serve residents at Tod’s Crossing and Hampshire House Apartments.

“Warren Express is probably our sixth busiest route and that just serves a small segment of Warren,” Harris said. “The six routes will not only be able to provide more impact for people wanting to get into Youngstown, but will be able to provide those in the residential area access to jobs in business and retail.”

Trumbull County Transit and county commissioners have had trouble obtaining funding, but WRTA had a chance to work with the state of Ohio on it goals for regionalization, Harris said.

WRTA also announced its new Travel Training program, which is available to anyone who uses or wishes to use WRTA fixed-route services. Upon request, a WRTA travel trainer will meet a resident at his home, walk with him to the nearest bus stop, accompany the rider to his destination and on the return trip.

The Travel Training program will teach people how to use WRTA fixed-route buses, read schedules to plan trips, transfer to other buses, pay fares and purchase tickets and passes.

“We’ve been working toward this for quite a period of time,” said Charles A. Nelson, president of Nelson Development Ltd. “When we did renovations to Federal Station, we modified it so that customer service and Travel Training could be centered at Federal Station.”

The next step is to coordinate transportation between agencies, which will also be centered at Federal Station, Nelson said.

Mobile ticketing through the EZfare app is also now available to customers who want to use WRTA’s fixed-route bus services. Multiride passes can be purchased as well as Adult Day passes and Adult 31-day passes.

Even though WRTA is looking to become more of an economic and social driver for Mahoning and Trumbull Counties, they are facing challenges with their on-demand transit service, YouRide, Harris said. In October, WRTA expanded its YouRide services to Boardman.

The service can pick people up from and take them anywhere within the service area, much like an Uber or Lyft service, he said. People can also request YouRide to connect themselves to a WRTA bus service at the Southern Park Mall.

“I don’t know if it’s a lack of communication, interest or bad timing,” Harris said. “We’ve applied for a grant to do a Sunday service with a YouRide type model. That might be a good demonstration service as far as what it could do for a low-rush day versus trying to have a bus running up and down the road every day with nobody on it.”

WRTA is going to explore more routes for its services, with Austintown being next in line, Harris said.

“We have a good route in Austintown, but we have a couple others in the area that kind of meander around,” he said. “We want to look at those, see if we can straighten them up, make them more efficient and provide better service more often. Instead of every hour, maybe it’s every half hour.”

Pictured: Dean J. Harris, executive director, WRTA and Charles A. Nelson, Nelson Development discuss fixed routes at WRTA’s stakeholders meeting.

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