An Athens city bus route expansion, made possible through a state grant and matching local dollars, will for the first time offer regular public transit in the village of Chauncey and along Route 13, further connecting riders to an already robust public transit system.
“We hope this new service proves valuable to the entire community, especially low-income residents who live in villages just outside the City of Athens,” said Michael Lachman, transportation services manager for Athens Public Transit, which is administered by Hocking-Athens-Perry Community Action. “Many cannot afford to live in Athens due to the high cost of housing. This expansion offers a way for these workers to get to the jobs they need in an affordable way. It will offer a lifeline to many needy households in our corner of Appalachia.”
The Ohio Department of Transportation awarded the $34,806 grant to APT and HAPCAP through the Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC) project, a competitive federal grant that’s intended to improve access to jobs and educational opportunities, particularly among low-income residents.
With matching dollars from Athens County Job and Family Services and the city of Athens, the funds will replace the existing Route 5 loop through Athens and The Plains with a pair of synchronized route loops that include the outlying village of Chauncey and parts of Route 13.
The extended route will also include stops in downtown Athens, West Union Street, The Plains and Columbus Road in Athens. The route is where nearly every significant employment and social service provider in the Athens area is located, including 128 businesses, several health care facilities and half a dozen residential communities.
In addition to the route expansion, the hours will be extended, allowing workers a realistic chance at a transit commute. Currently, the Route 5 hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The new hours will be 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays.
“Transportation is one of the biggest challenges for the poor in our county,” said Arian Smedley, community relations coordinator for Athens County Job and Family Services. “Eighty percent of families that receive cash assistance have no car or don’t have the resources to keep a legal car on the road. This expansion is providing a vital service to the entire county, but especially for those who are most in need. We applaud HAPCAP for taking the initiative and for the city of Athens for stepping up. And we’re of course happy to play a part in making it happen.”
“I’m glad we can work with the county and get something rolling together for transportation,” said Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl.
New routes and hours will be launched during the first quarter of 2015. Check the Athens Public Transit website at www.athenstransit.org or call 767-1079 for details and updates.