West Virginia MTA Service in Pocahontas County, Part 2
In this second half of our interview with Tim Thomas, who is the General Manager of the Mountain Transit Authority, or MTA, Thomas tells us about how the Call-Ride Service the MTA provides here works, discusses ways to increase the ridership and use of the MTA services here, and talks about their newest service, which is providing trips on Mondays and Fridays to either the Greenbrier County Airport or to Walmart in Lewisburg.
Tim, can you give us a description of how the Call-Ride Service works?
“The Call-Ride Service is if you need transportation anywhere in Pocahontas County, call us at 304-872-5872 and schedule your ride,” said Thomas. “It has to be done at least the day before, or you can schedule it out a couple of weeks, whatever. And once that happens, we will come to your house and pick you up and take you wherever your transportation needs are. We schedule it. That is done on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.”
A lot of people have been saying that the Call-Ride Service does not even exist.
“I think the reason why is that they are not understanding that they need to call us. Don’t call the driver; don’t give the driver your number; you call, because we schedule everything out of Summersville. And, it is working, because probably half of those numbers are on the Bartow Loop. You can see, it is 1,285 so far on the Bartow Loop. Plus, we are what we call a ‘Flag-Down Stop.” Where we know we have teeming points wherever, like Lucy’s Grocery, where we have to be there at a certain time, but if your just down the street and you see us, flag us down and we’ll pick you up.”
How is the Marlinton Loop doing?
“It is picking up. We are seeing a bunch of different individuals. It’s a growing process. And I think a lot of people are still scared (of the virus.) I know in the Nicholas County area and the Greenbrier County area, the pandemic is scaring people, I mean they are staying put.”
What do you think is needed to increase ridership?
“Well number one, the pandemic needs to go away. Secondly, educate people about public transit. That was basically our marketing plan. We were going to meetings and stuff like this until the pandemic arose and we can’t do that right now. hopefully that’s going to be lifted soon.”
Are you looking at any additional routes or services?
“We would like to, but it all comes down to how much funding we are going to get. We are required to have a 50% match (on our state/federal grant.) It is all about dollars and cents. And actually, we have expanded, and one of them is from Pocahontas County to the Greenbrier Valley Airport and the Walmart in Lewisburg on Mondays and Fridays. It is a pre-scheduled service. You have to call out number -304-872-5872 to schedule that the day before, so if you want to go on Monday, call us on Friday. We’re closed at the office on Saturday and Sunday. And if you want to go on Friday, it’s Thursday you call us and schedule it and we will come to your area and pick you up around 9 o’clock or before. The route goes over to the Lewisburg Walmart. It drops them off at the airport or the Walmart. And then we will return back to Pocahontas County somewhere around 4 o’clock. And that’s five dollars each way. And people can also access our website at www.mtawv.com and look at our schedules. They are all there.”
Tim Thomas has made clear that use of the MTA’s public transit services by county residents has not been nearly as dire as was described at the last Pocahontas County Commission meeting. Thomas said there are regular users of transit services by people who depend on that transportation. He talked about the extraordinary Call-Ride program, which works almost like a taxi service. Residents can call the day before to schedule a transit vehicle to pick them up at their home and take them to any destination they choose in Pocahontas County. This Call-ride service is available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and is completely in addition to the regular scheduled routes which operate on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In addition, Thomas described the new trips to Lewisburg which leave on Friday and Monday mornings around 9 am and return around four o’clock in the afternoon. You do need to call ahead to be scheduled for those Lewisburg trips which only cost $5.00 each way.
Whether or not these MTA services will continue here and even expand in the future may very well depend on the decision by the County Commissioners to continue their funding for the MTA through the next fiscal year. The commissioners are scheduled to take this issue up at their April 20th meeting.