WRTA to Launch Trumbull County Service March 2

WARREN, Ohio – The expansion of service by the Western Reserve Transit Authority into Trumbull County is drawing excitement from residents and businesses, even as some confusion about services remains ahead of the March 2 launch.

At Wednesday’s first information session, Paul Shand, director of retail properties for Mid-America Management Corp., Beachwood, offered up space in the Warren Plaza on Elm Road – home to Giant Eagle, a Bureau of Motor Vehicles office and several other businesses – for a bus stop or hub.

“We’ve really seen a turnaround in the shopping center. Giant Eagle is a great partner, but with the BMV there and with Goodwill, a lot of employees and a lot of people need transportation to get there,” he said after the meeting. “Before, it just wasn’t an option. To extend downtown up the road, it makes a lot of sense.”

For a space like the plaza, “any foot traffic is a positive,” he continued. The route passing the plaza, running from downtown Warren to the Elm Road Walmart, is expected to be Trumbull County’s busiest route, said WRTA Executive Director Dean Harris.

“Even if they don’t trade at our shopping center, they might be thinking about the restaurant or dentist that just came in, or seeking employment through Minute Men Staffing,” Shand said. “We view any person around as good for the center.”

From what Harris has seen, the need for transportation is one of the biggest barriers to steady employment. By expanding service, employers can draw from a larger labor pool.

“It’s a known destination at a known time, so [riders] know when they can get to work and they can get home,” he said. “People don’t stop when they see a county line. They live where they want to live and work where they can get a job. It’s important to connect the communities together under one umbrella and make service seamless.”

As the service was developed, fixed-services routes were decided based on access to retail sites, Harris said, as well as road structure, such as the ability for buses to turn around or to put in bus stops.

“There are limits on where you can put stops,” he said. “If there’s a protected right turn lane, for example, we can’t do anything there.”

And for residents, the expansion of service beyond the Warren Express Route – traveling from downtown Youngstown to the Trumbull Career and Technical Center – should provide better access to amenities.

“I am so proud of Warren for WRTA expanding here, especially to Kent State and to the places we can get groceries,” said Warren resident R. Jordan, who declined to give her first name. “It helps more people get to school. Kent State is up the street; I’m a graduate and I’m excited for that alone. And it can help combine the neighborhoods.”

What caused most of the confusion among the roughly 45 attendees to the meeting was WRTA’s All-Access Service. 

Users of the service must have disabilities that prevent them from using one of the seven fixed routes or be over the age of 65. The application process – which must be mailed to the passenger, filled out and returned via mail before the rider comes to the main hub in downtown Youngstown to pick up their WRTA ID card – can take upward of three weeks. Once the ID is in hand, riders can schedule service for reduced rates. 

While the IDs – along with those for students – currently can only be picked up at Federal Station in Youngstown, representatives from Scope Senior Centers suggested using at least one of the organization’s six Trumbull County sites for ID application and pickup, although nothing was formalized at the session.

The All-Access Service does not interfere with or override the transportation for those 60 and up provided through the county’s senior service levy passed last year, although administrator Diane Siskowic-Jurkovic urged those in attendance to use the WRTA service, as fares will be lower than what’s offered by the Trumbull County Service.

Beyond the All-Access Service, WRTA will offer countywide service for scheduled pick-ups, as well as seven fixed routes. The fixed routes will have a junction at the corner of Park Avenue and High Street on the northeastern corner of Courthouse Square. A map of all seven lines, as well as maps for individual routes, can be found here

There will be no fare for the county’s fixed routes the first week of service, beginning March 2. 

Following that, the service will operate the same as it would in Mahoning County through May 2021. At that time, the $2 million grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation will expire, Harris said. 

“We’ll be asking the state again to see if they’re willing to go another year. We’ll be talking to the [Trumbull County commissioners] to see what alternatives are available,” he said. “It depends on the commissioners and how they want to structure the future of transit in Trumbull County, whether it’s through us or own their own.”

Pictured: WRTA Executive Director Dean Harris at an information session about the agency’s Trumbull County expansion.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.