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Western county bus routes target jobs

New buses for New Carlisle could eventually include Greene County connection.

The grant-funded job access bus route through western Clark County to Springfield and back could begin rolling April 1, after about two years of planning, and it could make its way into Greene County to connect with the system there.

Tentatively, buses in the WestCAT, or Western Communities Area Transportation, program will run four times each day Monday through Friday from New Carlisle through the Park Layne and Crystal Lakes areas, through Enon and into downtown Springfield and back to New Carlisle.

But discussions are under way to connect riders with with the Greene CATS (Greene County Coordinated Agency Transportation System) by having a stop in Fairborn.

“We’re very excited because (Greene CATS) wants to work with us,” New Carlisle City Manager Kim Jones said. “By doing this stop in Fairborn on our way to Mad River Twp., our citizens will be able to get off in Fairborn and then get on another bus to go to Dayton or to go into Wright-Pat to work or to Wright State to go to school, to go to the other branch of Clark State.”

The Fairborn stop is not yet confirmed, however, Jones said during New Carlisle’s annual Town Hall meeting last week that the Greene CATS donated fare boxes, bike racks and the installation of both on the 16-passenger buses.

The main purpose of the $35,000 Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) Program federal grant is to get people to their jobs, Jones said.

New Carlisle, Mad River Twp. and the Department of Job and Family Services of Clark County committed a 50 percent local match ,and Job and Family Services later approved an additional $20,000 to partially fund the project through the end of 2013 and into 2014.

But it could also benefit those looking to shop, receive health care or recreate in other parts of the western county and Springfield.

The buses are capable of transporting 16 people and up to four wheelchairs.

Fare has not yet been set, but it’s been discussed to be in the $2 range, Jones said last week. Officials are trying to offset costs to the rider and to local agencies by selling advertising on the outside of the buses.

“That’s subject to change, but we’re trying to keep it very economical,” she said.

Federal funding was delayed early last year because the Ohio Department of Transportation said the initial proposal in 2011 needed additional language.

But bus planners skirted that issue by partnering with Developmental Disabilities of Clark County, which will operate the buses and manage the grant, Jones has said.

Four stops are planned for New Carlisle, according to Jones, but the system will have what’s called “flex routes” to pick up those with disabilities at their home. To do this, buses will arrive at a stop within a 10-minute window to allow the flexibility.

And riders don’t necessarily have to be at the bus stop and could flag the bus down along the route, Jones said.

Mad River Twp. Trustee Kathy Estep has said it’s the first time since the 1960s a bus route will run through the area. That route ran from Dayton to Springfield with a stop in Enon, she said.

“We’re really pushing hard to get all the agreements in place, the advertising sold and the buses with their decals on it and ready to go,” Jones said.

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