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Summit, Portage and Stark Transportation Agencies Discuss County-to-County Service With the Public

photo of Kirt Conrad

The Stark, Portage and Summit County transit agencies are holding public meetings on plans to coordinate service across county lines.  The latest was today in Canton.

Officials are considering a new branding, NEORide, to cover SARTA, PARTA and Akron Metro routes that run between the counties.  A study commissioned by SARTA shows that public transit use has grown about 13 percent since 2010, and ridership among the elderly and the disabled is expected to grow by 50 percent through 2030.  Tim Rosenberger helped author the study and says the numbers show a need for better public transit integration for people traveling, for example, from Canton to Akron City Hospital.

“It would make better use of the taxpayer money if we can get as many people as we can onto fixed-route services.  Particularly for these longer, between-county trips.”

SARTA CEO Kirt Conrad says one reason for the plan is to save money on things like Pro-Line door-to-door service for people to see doctors in another county.  Those rides typically require a vehicle to take someone to an appointment and then wait there until it’s over.

“We do the fixed-route to Cleveland.  You can do that route for two bucks round-trip.  But, by the same time, we do the same trips under Medicaid – we pick up somebody and take them there – that can be a $300 trip.  There’s over $300 million a year that’s spent on transportation.”

The NEORide study also shows that more direct routes to NEOMED, Kent State and Kent State Stark would benefit riders.  Rosenberger says better integration would, ideally, lead to standardized fares and a website that tracks buses on all three systems.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.