Hop Aboard the Mountain Transit Authority Buses (Parts 1 and 2)
Tim Thomas, the CEO of the Mountain Transit Authority -or MTA – explains the new public transit service in Pocahontas County – What is it, how to use it, and what it offers in addition to scheduled bus service.
“The Mountain started our first day (in Pocahontas County) on September 30th for our Bartow route, which was to address the need for public transportation to Interstate Hardwoods” said Thomas. “We are averaging less then we thought originally. And then one week later we started the Marlinton Loop, which runs Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 am to 4 pm, every hour, anywhere from downtown Marlinton up to Edray -DHHR (Department of Health and Human Services) and then all the way up to the Hospital. It will have stops at the Courthouse, the City Hall, the grocery stores -the IGA. Lucy’s, Family Dollar, Rite Aid and then it makes the loop up to the hospital each and every hour.”
“We are excited about being in Pocahontas County. We feel there is a huge need here. We just got to get the word out to let people know we are here to service them and for us to stay here, it is going to have to be a need driven by ridership.”
How much does it cost to ride the Marlinton Loop??
“The loop is a dollar in downtown and then if you need to go to Edray -DHHR in that area, or to the Hospital, it is two dollars each way.”
Does it cost more to ride up to the area near Rite Aid?
“It’s a dollar” Thomas answered. “We consider that the downtown flat area. It is very easy for people to hop on and hop off. As to the cost -you can’t get in your personal car and ride around town for two dollars. Our vehicles will drop you off virtually at the front doors of those facilities.”
“We do have a loop, a fixed route, timing points throughout, but our service is called a fixed route deviated service. What that means is that we will actually go off of our route, up to three quarters of a mile-safely, For example, if you are at the Courthouse, and our route doesn’t cover some place in your area, if it is within three quarters of a mile from the Courthouse, we will service you. The only thing you have to do is call and let us know, or if you are on the bus, tell our driver ‘hay, I need a deviation.’ He will deviate up to three quarters of a mile off our route to service you.”
What if someone is at the Courthouse but they just want to take the bus to the Little General Store across the bridge? Will the bus stop and let them off at a place between regular stops?
“Mountain Transit Authority has what we call a flag stop” explained Thomas, “We do have designated timing spots, but if you hop up on the bus and you want to go to the convenience store, we’ll drop you off at a safe place closest to there. We won’t go into their parking lot because of the access.”
If somebody lives several blocks off the bus route -perhaps they have a mobility problem – would you pick them up at their house?
“Yes, that’s part of that deviated service” Thomas said. “It is basically addressing the ADA need. Someone in a mobility device that may not be able to get to that fixed point on our route would just call and say ‘I need to be picked up at whatever their address is and we will deviate that bus out there. With the communications problems we have here -two-way radios, cell phones etc., we ask anybody that needs a deviation for us to pick them up at their house, to call a day in advance -and that’s at 304-872-5872. That’s our main office in Summersville and we will schedule them the day before. Now if they are out on the route, and they board the bus and they need a deviation, we’ll just take them the same day -you don’t have to call in advance to do that.”
Tim, do riders need to have exact change to pay their fares when they board the bus?
“No, there’s a couple of things we are doing” answered Thomas. “Right now, the driver will have some change. We would like to have exact change -that’s what we are working for. And we are also coming out with a new monthly bus pass. We haven’t set the figure for the cost yet. It will give you unlimited rides for the entire month. You would have to buy a new monthly pass every month. It’s strictly up to them how they want to do it. We will have some change there but we are moving towards a cashless or exact change fares in the future,”
Do you anticipate riders will take the bus to go shopping?
“In rural communities, a lot of the need that you have there is for shopping, medical, and work, of course” said Thomas. “Basically, if you need to go shopping, the good thing about it is if it is off of a route, you just call and set that up every time you want to go, and we will pick you up near your house, in front of your house, drop you off in front of the grocery store -and we will even help you put your groceries on. That’s one thing that our system does.”
Wow! I never thought any transit company would offer that service.
“The point that I want to make is, we are here for the passenger, and we are here to help this community.”
What are some other benefits to having a public transit system in the community?
“When people look at public transportation; look at the economic benefits” he explained. “It helps people become healthier; it cuts down on the overall higher cost on the medical when you have access to jobs. But if you need to go anywhere, public transit -Mountain Transit Authority is here to be your general public transportation provider. If someone will call us and say I’ve got this type of transportation need, we will try to tool it to better serve you, if at all possible.”
Right now, the service seems limited, do you have plans to expand the bus service in the future?
“We have to start small” Thomas said. “This is just tip of the iceberg that I feel we could actually do here. We are going to look at going out to those other areas like Hillsboro. We are even looking to going to Greenbrier County once or twice a week to wherever you need to go down there -Walmart per se, but that’s something we are going to look at in the future. But we actually need to get the ridership here started. People need to let us know what they actually need. The first year is our pilot project to see what will work, what the needs are out there before we come in here and actually finalize everything. But, yes, we are looking at the outer areas to provide more service into the future, we need to know what the needs are.”
Tim, is there anything else you’d like to tell the public?
“We’d really like to thank everybody for their initial support of being allowed to bring us back in here. Just hop om board and get behind transportation and were here to service you” he said. “If you have any questions call us at the office -304-872-5872. And I think that once you start riding public transportation and see what it’s all about, you will have a better community with public transit involved in it. Thank you.”
So, you might want to write that telephone number down, because it looks like it could become a very important number for transportation needs in Pocahontas County.