No-cost study will determine need for public transit in county

By Eddie Mowen Jr. -

EATON — The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has approved a fully-funded study which will help provide information and guidance regarding the potential creation of public transit for Preble County.

Preble County Transit Director Curt McNew informed Preble County Commissioners of the study during their Wednesday, Nov. 10 meeting. He had met with the board earlier this year to discuss the potential of having such a transportation study completed for the county.

“I was conversing by email with the head of Ohio Public Transit three weeks ago and I just mentioned your support of a potential study, and I said ‘I need some help developing an RFP and scope of work.’ And in two hours, she had somebody call me from her office, and then in six days they fully funded a study for Preble County,” McNew told commissioners. “So you won’t have to shell out a single penny.”

“I didn’t even know the program existed,” McNew added. “But in these days of public funds from D.C., there’s a lot of money they have to spend.”

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) approved the study to be completed by RLS & Associates Inc. RLS specializes in public transportation throughout the United States, and is headquartered Dayton, according to McNew.

‘They’re going to work together with me and a steering committee,” McNew said of RLS. “I’ve got about half that steering committee put together.”

McNew said Commissioner Rachael Vonderhaar has volunteered to sit on the steering committee and noted there would be a kickoff briefing with the consultants from RLS on Monday, Dec. 6, at the Preble County Council on Aging.

RLS & Associates will look at the current coordinated transportation plan the county has on files which is dated 2018-2022, what the Council on Aging does, and what other providers around the state do, as well as review some of the programs operated in Greenville, according to McNew.

“They will design and conduct a survey in the county asking people what they would use transportation for if they needed it, etc.,” McNew said, noting there will be both online and paper options for completing the survey. He said they will also meet with stakeholders from other agencies, including Job & Family Services, Community Action Partnership, Preble County Board of Developmental Disabilities and others.

“Also in December, they’ll tap into the U.S. Census statistics for a demographic analysis of Preble County as part of the report, and they’ll write up their first draft,” he said, adding RLS would meet with the steering committee to go over their findings in January.

“They spend more time in January developing alternatives, recommendations and guidelines, talking to the steering committee again, and then late January they’ll look at comparable systems, revenue, expenses, etc. that might be needed,” McNew said. “And, again, the bottom line I’m operating with is no money from the county.”

The goal for having the report completed is Feb. 28, according to McNew. “And that puts us in the timing, if you so approve, to apply for grants for public transit to get the money in 2023,” he told commissioners.

“Sounds good,” Vonderhaar told McNew. “You’re doing a great job,” Commissioner Adam Craft added.

“It’s really nice to have some professional help,” McNew said. “I was really glad to get this.”

By Eddie Mowen Jr.

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr.

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr.