Harrison transit costs rising

CADIZ The Harrison County Rural Transit announced to the Harrison County board of Commissioners Wednesday that due to growing need for transportation in the county, fare increases and rule changes for riders are being implemented.

Karen Couch, director of Rural Transit, told the board during a public hearing for the proposed changes that a letter would be given to all riders outlining the changes and increases which are scheduled to take effect Sept. 1.

Couch cited the increasing number of cancellations and no-shows for changes in the policy, “It is crucial that everybody be ready 15 minutes before the scheduled pick up time and we will no longer wait more than 5 minutes after pick up time.”

“This causes residents that need transportation to be denied a trip because of a full schedule and then someone cancels last minute or is a no-show,” stated Couch.

Rural Transit will also implement a 24-hour advanced notice for pick ups (5 days for out of county trips) changing the current policy which would allow riders to schedule trips for the next day using the answering machine, “The scheduler does not come into the office until 8 a.m. and we have no one to schedule that and then they call in and get mad because we could not squeeze them in so we are going to allow only cancellations on the answering machine.”

Rural Transit will now charge no-shows double fare, “In addition, that rider will not be permitted to ride until that no-show amount is paid,” Couch explained. “Anyone with 3 no-shows within ten working days will be denied transportation for 30 days.”

Cancellations also must be made four hours prior to a pick up time to avoid being charged the regular daily rate for the scheduled ride. Couch originally told commissioners she would double the fare for cancellations, however, after Commissioner Don Bethel pointed out that policy could result in additional no-shows which would cause additional waste.

“If you have a cancellation policy which is the same as your no-show policy then they might say if I don’t call in and cancel it is the same price as a no-show,” Bethel questioned. “Then I might as well be a no-show and then they don’t call at all and you will have the added expense of going out to pick that person up.”

If you charge just the ride rate then riders would at least make an effort to call in and notify you instead of just not showing up.” Bethel said adding his comments were just a suggestion and that it would be the directors decision.

Couch stated that cancellations would be charged the regular daily rate, with additional stops scheduled also being added to the penalty for riders not meeting the deadline. Similarly anyone with 3 late cancellations within 10 working days will be denied service for 30 days.

“We have a lot of no shows and cancellations,” Couch told the board. “There are riders who are habitual with cancellations and no-shows and this takes our time, cost money for fuel and drivers and most importantly denies access to other people in need of transportation.”

Couch also announced a planned 50-cent increase on fares which presently range from $1 to $2.50 per one way trip within the county. The increase is subject to approval from the Ohio Department of Transportation and children under the age of 5 years would still ride free.

In addition riders must have the correct change to pay each driver. Riders are no longer permitted to pay one driver for all trips. Couch reminded that drivers can not make change and that tickets for trips can be purchased.

Service will be maintained from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m. and scheduling will now be done between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. All trips are subject to availability and persons with questions or in need of special accommodations can call the director at (740) 942-1369.

Couch stated that her department was $2,000 in the red at the end of July, however the current paving at the building was scheduled prior to that date and the $17,000 project was bid on an 80/20 cost split with Rural Transit paving only 20 percent of the total cost.

Palmer may be reached at mpalmer@timesleaderonline.com