Public Transportation for Wyandot County being Sought

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October 15, 2018
Media note: While HHWP CAC is an experienced public transportation provider, the project in Wyandot County is essentially still in its infancy. There are additional discussions to be had with local stakeholders and a variety of components remain up in the air. Local funding must be secured first in order to apply for matching funds from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). To apply for the necessary federal funding, the transportation expansion project hinges on acquiring a commitment of local funding from within Wyandot County first. Wyandot County is one of only a handful of counties statewide that does not currently have any public transportation.

Local Coalition Hopes to Bring Public Transportation to Wyandot County Residents HHWP Community Action Commission Able to Apply for Grant Funds- if Local Money Can Be Committed by mid-September
The Hancock Hardin Wyandot Putnam Community Action Commission (HHWP CAC) is a longtime active member of the Wyandot County Coordinated Transportation Coalition as well as a member of the Regional Coordinated Transportation Coalition that includes Hancock, Hardin, Wyandot, and Putnam Counties. These two coalitions share the voices of people who seek transportation and make recommendations to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) about local needs.

Almost all counties in Ohio have public transportation but Wyandot County is on the short-list of those that do not. That could be changing, however, as ODOT has accepted a letter of intent from HHWP CAC to apply for funding to expand public transportation offerings to include Wyandot County.

The Wyandot County Board of Developmental Disabilities/Angeline School & Industries serves as the lead agency for the Wyandot County Transportation Coalition. Todd Dilley, Superintendent at WyCBDD/ Angeline, states “The local transportation coalition has been hoping to expand transportation options for many years but the ODOT funding just simply wasn’t being offered to Wyandot County. Wyandot County is now finally able to apply. With the help of HHWP CAC, the Coalition has done the legwork over the years to be in a position to seek funding, and I am super excited about the possibility of this grant!
The only public transportation available currently in the Hancock, Hardin, Wyandot, Putnam region is in Hancock County from HATS. HATS stands for Hancock Area Transportation Services and is operated by the CAC. HHWP CAC currently provides contracted transportation services in Wyandot County as well. For example, there is a contract in place between HHWP CAC and Wyandot County Job and Family Services to provide some medical transportation for their clients.

Since the Community Action Commission has been serving residents of Wyandot County with a variety of social services since 1966, HHWP CAC is uniquely positioned to build upon the services provided by HATS and expand into Wyandot County with firsthand knowledge of the community.

If the Wyandot County transportation project is funded and launched, it will have many similarities and some differences from HATS. HATS has a 19 year history of providing safe, affordable public transportation in Hancock County. Using lessons learned and best practices, HHWP CAC seeks to take these skills and knowledge and build a quality program in neighboring Wyandot County. Like HATS, the program would continue to be safe, affordable, and curb to curb. Service would be available to any Wyandot County resident on a first come first served basis. “We anticipate that the cost will be in the range of $1.50 to $2.00 for one way service within the Upper Sandusky limits and $2.50 to $3.00 for a one way trip outside of Upper Sandusky but within Wyandot County. Children ages 9 and older may ride without a parent at regular rates. Any riders who are elderly or disabled would be eligible for a half priced fare.” - Joshua Anderson, Executive Director of HHWP CAC

Any Wyandot County resident could ride. It will be a first come-first served program with riders able to schedule up to two weeks in advance. Same day service may be available in some cases. Other than residency, there will be no eligibility requirements. “Last year, HHWP CAC’s HATS program served over 3,000 unduplicated riders and provided over 45,000 rides in Hancock County. Based on these numbers and given that the population in Wyandot County is smaller, we anticipated approximately 1,000 regular riders in Wyandot County.” – Rodabaugh Gallegos
The main difference would be in hours of operations. Initially, HHWP CAC hopes to be able to operate in Wyandot County from 6:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday. If the service is funded and many people ride, however, the project could potentially be expanded to include evenings or Saturdays down the road.

“If this program develops, we are definitely open to having an office location in Wyandot County. HHWP CAC currently has an office building in Upper Sandusky at 559 S. Warpole Street, but there may or may not be enough space to house a transportation operation, and future growth would likely be limited at our location there. It may make sense to explore another office location in Wyandot County or, since riders call to schedule rides, have the office remain in Findlay. Those details will be worked out if the project unfolds and HHWP CAC will certainly weigh the costs and benefits associated with different location options. Regardless of the office location, the vehicles will be located in Wyandot County and be designated to serve Wyandot County residents” - Erin Rodabaugh Gallegos, Director of Development at HHWP CAC

Based on HHWP CAC’s projections, the project will have an overall estimated cost of $411,500 to operate and maintain for a year. Of this overall amount, ODOT will require $155,678 in funds coming from Wyandot County to operate the program and another $18,000 to purchase two new vehicles. The local funds can then be leveraged by HHWP CAC to request the remaining funds from federal sources. As an example, handicapped accessible vehicles which are large and can be used for public transit cost roughly $45,000 each. To obtain two new handicapped accessible vehicles, $18,000 needs to be provided from local sources. HHWP CAC can then leverage those funds to apply for the remaining $72,000 cost of the new vehicles.

 If HHWP CAC can acquire the funding, the hope is to utilize two older dispositioned vehicles from HHWP CAC’s fleet, purchase the two new handicapped accessible vehicles, and build a workforce of 8-10 drivers. This fleet will be dedicated to providing service to Wyandot County residents only.

At this point, a letter of intent to apply for funds has been submitted to ODOT by HHWP CAC. That letter was recently approved, and the CAC can apply for funds in early October. “While HHWP CAC’s letter of intent has the full support of the Wyandot County Commissioners, the letter of intent is in no way a full proposal. There are still items to be worked out – particularly the funding piece. In our application for matching grant funds, HHWP CAC must indicate where the required local donated dollars are coming from. If we don’t have local funding, we will be turned down. Since the application is due October 12, we are asking that any interested organizations or individuals who wish to commit to financially supporting the transportation project contact us on or before September 19th. At that point, we will determine if we have enough support to move forward with a grant application or if we will have to let this rare opportunity for Wyandot County pass by.” - Anderson

“Funding is being developed, and – unless we are shocked, amazed, and truly blessed with one substantial local donation to help launch this project - we understand that this will have to be a large-scale community project with smaller amounts of funding coming from a wide variety of sources. We know that there are many generous individuals in Wyandot County. Our biggest challenge right now is the tight timeline. We were not given a lot of notice and have had to react quickly.” - Rodabaugh Gallegos

Why is the county looking into the transportation service?

How will it benefit residents? HHWP CAC does a community needs assessment survey every three years. Consistently, lack of transportation is reported as a concern by the residents and agencies in Wyandot County. While there are a number of agencies that are providing specialized transportation and they are doing it very well, a gap still remains. An expansion to public transportation service can supplement what is currently happening and fill a local gap in services. For example, the Wyandot County Council on Aging effectively serves the transportation needs of the senior population, but there are many other people in the general public who also need reliable transportation. For instance, the hospital indicates that periodically there are individuals from Wyandot County that simply have nobody to contact to take them home once they are released. There are also young people who would like to work or be involved in extracurricular activities after school, but parents often don’t have a reliable vehicle or, due to work schedules, perhaps the time to provide that opportunity. Transportation expansion in Wyandot County can benefit the whole community.

“Bringing public transportation to the residents of Wyandot County can be transformational. It will help to create a safe, affordable option for all residents to visit friends, volunteer, get to the grocery store or pharmacy, attend sporting events, and so much more. Lower-income families and youth – in particular people from the more rural portions of the county – will gain greater access to food distribution and healthy activities. It can also create better access to employment opportunities and a boost to the local economy.” – Rodabaugh Gallegos
"From an economic standpoint, the advantages that public transportation offer would be invaluable. Access to public transportation would strengthen multiple Wyandot County business sectors by both offering workers reliable transportation to and from their places of employment as well as transport for customers to access local businesses. Public transportation is a community amenity that has yet to be tapped in Wyandot County, and could be a critical piece to ongoing economic viability." - Greg Moon, Executive Director, Wyandot County Office of Economic Development.

 “Our transportation coalition has seen a gap in local transportation services for at least ten years, but matching funding was simply not even being offered to Wyandot County. If we want to make this dream a reality for all of Wyandot County, it may take a variety of businesses, churches, clubs, agencies, and individuals coming to the table with a commitment of funds to make a grant application possible.” – Dilley

For more information, readers can visit www.hhwpcac.org or “Like” www.facebook.com/hhwpcac. A copy of Wyandot County’s Coordinated Public Transportation plan is also available on HHWP CAC’s website at www.hhwpcac.org/resources
HHWP CAC is a nonprofit organization and donations are tax deductible. To inquire about helping to fund the program, contact Josh Anderson, Executive Director of HHWP CAC, at 419-423-3755 ext. 239 or janderson@hhwpcac.com or Erin Rodabaugh Gallegos, Director of Development, at ext. 240 or erodabaughgallegos@hhwpcac.com.

Additionally, individuals who need transportation or who have questions about transportation options in either Hancock County or Wyandot County may contact Pam Zimmerly, Mobility Manager with HHWP CAC, at 419-957-6850
Contact:
Erin Rodabaugh Gallegos, Director of Development
(419) 423-3755