Licking County Transit Ends Sunday Van Service

Aug. 22--NEWARK, Ohio -- The Licking County Transit Board voted unanimously tonight to eliminate Sunday service and reduce nighttime hours, in a cost-cutting measure that was met with some community resistance.

The new hours for the van service, which picks up passengers at their door, will take effect on Sept. 1.

People who were against the idea came to two well-attended public hearings last month, as well as tonight's Transit Board meeting. They said the changes will prevent some citizens from attending church and hamstring students and second-shift workers who don't own vehicles.

"God is watching you and we who elected you are watching," said Diane Jaquish of Granville.

Allen Schwartz, a teacher at Licking County's Career and Technical Educational Center, said that the decision "will leave my (night-school) students standing there with no way to get home, which probably means they won't come to class. It puts another obstacle in the way of people who are trying to climb up."

Lesha Farias, of Newark's Society of St. Francis DePaul, talked of the struggles that local residents who don't have transportation face, including an inability to make appointments, get to work and get their kids to school.

"Where is the hope in the situation for countless members of the community?" Farias asked.

Commissioner Tim Bubb, who chairs the board, said, "There's a limit to the services we can provide with the resources we have. We're reducing the marginal-service hours around the edge to protect the core services. There's an awful lot more people at risk if we don't act."

The changes in service would mean that no vans run on Sundays, and vans would quit running at 8 p.m. on other days, instead of the current 11 p.m. Licking County Transit Services provides about 600 trips on days other than Sundays, but fewer than 15, on average, occur after 8 p.m.

Sunday service averages about 55 trips per day, bringing in less than $200 in fares but costing $1,800 per Sunday to operate.

The actual cost per ride to the transit service is about $20; fares typically range between $2 and $6.

The board said that Transit Services could save about $319,000 a year with the changes. The bulk of its annual $4 million budget comes from contracts to provide transportation for clients of the county's Job and Family Services agency and Board of Developmental Disabilities, which together provide about $2 million.

The Federal Transit Administration provides about $1.4 million a year, though cuts in federal funding are currently being threatened.

elyttle@dispatch.com

@ewlyttle

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